Lawsuit aims to block governor from arresting Occupy protesters

Monday, October 31, 2011 at 12:38pm

The ACLU and two Nashville attorneys filed suit Monday morning seeking a temporary restraining order halting enforcement of the curfew at Legislative Plaza aimed at the Occupy Nashville protests.

The suit — which names Gov. Bill Haslam, Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, General Services Commissioner Steven Cates and unnamed highway patrolmen as defendants — aims to have the new restrictions vacated on First Amendment grounds and seeks injunctive and monetary relief, as well as a halt to the arrests until the suit is decided.

The suit claims the rules instituted by the state late last week are unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and the new fees required for events on Legislative Plaza "chill or eviscerate" the free speech and assembly rights of the protestors.

In addition, the suit seeks return of the arrested protestors' property. The hearing will be at 3:30 p.m.

On Thursday, Haslam's administration issued permit requirements for daytime protests and a curfew to prevent nighttime protests. State troopers and corrections officers were bussed in on Friday and Saturday mornings to enforce it and more than 50 protesters were arrested over two nights for refusing to leave. 

The complaint notes that Legislative Plaza has historically served as a venue for peaceful protest.

"The location of the Plaza makes it an appropriate and effective public forum at which Occupy Nashville can convey its message, meet in a peaceable manner for their common good, instruct their representatives and apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of their grievances,” the lawsuit states.

“For many years, the Plaza has been used for political, social and labor demonstrations," the lawsuit reads.

The complaint notes that, before last week, the only fees required for use of the plaza were for exclusive, private events, such as weddings. Indeed, included among the exhibits is a 2008 letter from the counsel for the Department of General Services to ACLU of Tennessee Legal Director Tricia Herzfeld, in which the state's attorney "assure[s]" Herzfeld "any person or organization is free to engage in any activity protected by the Constitution on the War Memorial Plaza without having to provide the State of Tennessee with any advance notice, obtain liability insurance or pay event and security fees."

Herzfeld is one of the three attorneys who signed the complaint. Former Metro Councilman David Briley and Patrick Frogge are the others.

The plaintiffs are six Occupy Nashville participants who were arrested during the sweeps, which started early Friday morning.

Filed under: City News

10 Comments on this post:

By: NewYorker1 on 10/31/11 at 1:28

With all the high-end stores opening in Green Hills now, can't these people find something better to do with their time than protesting? Come on now, Green Hills is offering Gucci, Armani, and Burberry now and these people are worried about this crap. WTF!!!!

By: David_S on 10/31/11 at 1:44

According to the logic of this lawsuit, I can apparently throw up a tent and live on the footsteps of the capital building indefinitely, as long as I claim to be "protesting" something. Look at places like China, Iran, Syria, etc., where there really is no freedom of speech or assembly. Then look at these "protestors" crying foul and throwing out lawsuits because they aren't allowed to essentially LIVE on public property (let's face it, after 3 weeks, these people are LIVING there, not protesting). Occupy Nashville has long since lost all credibility as a "protest". I'm sorry, but you have no constitutional right to set up residence on public land. It is for all of us, not just you.

By: Just Sayin on 10/31/11 at 2:44

Just Sayin, I don't know why these people see it the way they do. I do know why the govenor the sees it this way. He is in the 1 %.

By: ratizbad on 10/31/11 at 2:47

The governor is a crook like all of them in office of Davidson county
Plain and simple!!!!!!!!!!!

By: NewYorker1 on 10/31/11 at 2:51

The TN Governor use to be the mayor of Knoxville. Knoxville is DEAD city. Voting this guy in was the worst move TN could have made. All you have to do is look at Knoxville and you can see for yourself that this Governor isn't worth SH_T.

By: pswindle on 10/31/11 at 4:30

Haslam is hiding behind the big boys. That is how he does his dirty work. All those crazy bills that was passed this year. He pretended he did not know much about them, but he could not get hins pen out fast enough to sign them.

By: macjedi on 11/1/11 at 7:43

GOOD. Haslam is a criminal. The law he broke? The law of the land! Stupid fool. Selling out the Constitution to protect the image of himself and his greedy rich buddies.

By: yogiman on 11/1/11 at 3:33

Ain't it great to know Barry Soetoro is going right by the rules of the Constitution in his illegal unconstitutional actions?

By: Nitzche on 11/1/11 at 9:02

occupy david briley's house, see how he likes it?

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