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.