Public records show concerns leading to arrests

Public records show concerns leading to arrests
By LUCAS JOHNSON II
Associated Press
NASHVILLE (AP) — The Tennessee Highway Patrol consulted with several other states to see if they were providing security for Wall Street protesters before making arrests in Nashville, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press on Monday.
Protesters had been camping at the Legislative Plaza across the street from the state Capitol for about three weeks when a curfew was announced Oct. 27. There were 55 arrests over the next two days.
But before the arrests, records show Virginia was among several states Tennessee consulted to see if it was providing security and who was paying for it.
Safety Department spokesman Jennifer Don-nals provided the AP with more than 150 pages of requested documents and confirmed police were asking other states how they were handling security.
Virginia officials didn’t provide a cost for security, but said the Richmond Police Department was handling law enforcement issues.
In Nashville, there has been no overtime paid to state troopers involved in the security or enforcement efforts at the plaza, according to the Safety Department. The only cost is a per diem of $34 to troopers for nightly meals.
Members of Occupy Nashville had expressed concern about security on the plaza and the grounds surrounding the Capitol. An email from David Carpenter, facility administrator for the Capitol complex, sent a couple of days before the arrests revealed he had been contacted by one of the protesters and he was trying to arrange a meeting with other state officials to address concerns.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said the curfew was partially prompted because of complaints about crime and unsanitary conditions on the grounds around the Capitol.
In another email to a state attorney and Capitol security documenting conditions on the plaza, Carpenter said “there have been several acts of violence; homeless on homeless, homeless on protester, and protester on protester.”
He said some homeless people had acquired tents and sleeping bags and were “blending in with or taking up quarters in separate corners of the plaza.”
“It is my opinion that the protesters have lost control of the situation with the homeless and the environment has become unsanitary and unsafe,” Carpenter wrote.
Carpenter also noted other concerns, such as constant trash removal, “power cords running across the plaza creating a trip hazard,” and two separate calls that had come from a Republican lawmaker’s office “regarding indecent exposure, urination and fornication in public.”
Last week, a federal judge signed an order for a preliminary injunction barring the state from enforcing the curfew policy. The injunction does not prohibit the state from drawing up new rules, and Haslam has said his administration intends to do so.
Meanwhile, Nashville protesters said they’re preparing for an indefinite stay at the plaza and have taken steps to keep it safe and clean. They said troublemakers have been weeded out and crude behavior won’t be tolerated.
“We have a code of conduct,” said protester Eva Watler. “If you break the code of conduct, you have to leave.”
Published in The Messenger 11.22.11

Leave a Comment