After trying to remove Occupy Nashville protesters by force, Haslam seeks middle ground

Sunday, November 20, 2011 at 10:05pm
Occupy Protest Main.jpg
(Michael W. Bunch/SouthComm)

In cities across the country, police are rousting Occupy Wall Street encampments. But Gov. Bill Haslam appears to have all but surrendered — at least for now — to Nashville’s version of the nationwide protest against corporate greed and wealth inequality.

Last week, at the governor’s request, prosecutors dropped trespassing citations against 49 protesters who were arrested last month in Haslam’s failed attempt to clear Legislative Plaza. Also, the state agreed to an extension of federal Judge Aleta Trauger’s order barring new arrests. In legal parlance, the temporary restraining order became a preliminary injunction — the next step toward a trial of Occupy Nashville’s lawsuit alleging free-speech violations.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey wants to oust the protesters. (“I think they ought to be removed. I do,” he told reporters flatly.) State Republican Party chairman Chris Devaney castigates the occupiers as a gang of filthy slackers, and legislative aides and others who work at the plaza raise a seemingly never-ending litany of complaints of unsightly and unsanitary conditions.

(One secretary said someone urinated on her from above as she took a smoke break in a below-ground-level courtyard. Occupy Nashville denied any protester did it.)

But after drawing withering criticism in the media and elsewhere for his crackdown, Haslam is biding his time and walking gingerly around this topic. The public swamped the governor’s office with complaints about the arrests. Of 400 emails to the governor’s office, only 11 supported Haslam. He now acknowledges both sides in the controversy and casts himself as caught in the middle.“

You know, this is one of those that there’s a lot of opinions on. I have a lot of people who thought that when we went in and tried to implement a curfew that we were wrong,” the governor told reporters last week. “I’ve had a whole lot of people say I can’t believe that’s happening on that property. If I went and set up a tent there four weeks ago, would you have let me stay? So there’s a lot of passionate feelings around it on both sides.”

Haslam has no choice but to back down. The state’s attorneys so far have declined to defend him in court, apparently recognizing their unsound legal grounds, and Judge Trauger already has declared from the bench that she sees what Haslam did as a free-speech violation.

In most of the other cities where authorities are shutting down camps, curfews already exist in the law, according Occupy Nashville’s lawyers. In Nashville, that wasn’t the case. The Haslam administration hatched its new regulations in secret and enforced them only hours after springing them on the public.

The encampment already had been established for three weeks, and the curfew obviously was intended to oust Occupy Nashville, not to provide for some general public good that Haslam could try to cast as a legitimate government purpose.

One of Trauger’s main problems initially with Haslam’s actions was his failure to follow the state’s statutory process for making the new regulations that he imposed on the Capitol grounds — his 10 to 6 p.m. curfew and permit requirement for demonstrations.

In a reversal, Haslam now has embraced transparency and inclusiveness in developing a new set of regulations that he hopes will pass court muster.“

There’s a rule-making process that we need to go through, which we will do,” Haslam said. “We’re going to involve a lot of different people in that discussion. What is the right use for state property, whether it be on the Capitol grounds or the plaza or anything else? We intend to get a lot of input from constitutional lawyers and users of the space and other folks, so we can then start the rule-making process.”

Once those regulations are in place — a process that could take months — it seems likely that the governor will return to federal court for some kind of resolution, assuming Occupy Nashville remains ensconced at the plaza then and that the new rules are unacceptable to the protesters.Haslam almost certainly will insist on banning camping on the plaza — no tents or sleeping bags allowed — and that’s a deal-breaker for the occupiers.“

The goal is for the state to promulgate regulations that our clients are comfortable with and that meet the standards of the First Amendment,” Occupy Nashville lawyer David Briley said, declining to predict whether the administration will succeed.

In the event of an impasse, the two sides will be back to square one in federal court arguing about Occupy Nashville’s lawsuit. According to constitutional law experts, the occupiers will have to prove Haslam is singling them out to stop their protesting and that he could secure public safety by other means without imposing a curfew at the Capitol.

Lawsuits like Occupy Nashville’s have been filed around the country. But Occupy Nashville’s case may be stronger than many, the experts said. To make its case, Occupy Nashville can point to both the curfew’s after-the-fact imposition and its inconsistent enforcement.

On both nights of Haslam’s crackdown, Tennessee Performing Arts Center theater-goers were given special permission to cross the plaza after 10 p.m. TPAC even threw a gala fundraiser in plain view of the rag-tag protesters on the crackdown’s second night. Tuxedoed arts patrons broke the curfew with impunity.

Safety Department emails disclosed since then have revealed that highway patrol troopers went undercover and infiltrated the protesters — more evidence that the regulations were aimed, not generally to promote public safety, but specifically at the protesters in possible violation of their free-speech rights.“

Certainly the sequence of the events … and the inconsistent applications might support” the protesters claims in the lawsuit, says Steven Mulroy, a constitutional law professor at the University of Memphis.

29 Comments on this post:

By: Loner on 11/21/11 at 5:39

Your scaredy cat governor is a failed preacher wannabe...he panicked when a handful of peaceful protesters occupied the Legislative Plaza...Haslam quickly pushed through undemocratic and oppressive legislation and then sent in the SWAT team & dogs and undercover agents provocateur, in order to besmirch, delegitimize and squelch the demonstration.

Something like 100 THP cops were called in to bust 25 protesters at 3 AM...and some of the protesters were actually undercover cops. Haslam panicked...and he claims to be a "limited government" advocate.

Like Beavis, when he goes into his Cornholio alter-ego, Haslam over-reacted and behaved like a crazed and paranoid despot....he thought that he was being threatened....Haslam needs TP for his bunghole?

Haslam is unsuited for politics in the real world; start the recall now, before this nutty goofball kills some innocent people.

By: govskeptic on 11/21/11 at 6:30

It appears Loner has now joined our own lovely group(in spirit) from his
NY wireless spider hole! It's actually rather sad that the Governor of this
state has to depend on this antique, incompetent, politically unaccountable,
legally dim, office of Attorney General for anything! As the only State in the
Nation that allows our own Supreme Court to select, hire and fire this
occupant to what should be an important office representing the "People"
we have a "Protect the Judiciary" AG! It's far pass time to start the
movement to change this office to elected!

By: sidneyames on 11/21/11 at 6:45

sidneyames The paper states "Safety Department emails disclosed since then have revealed that highway patrol troopers went undercover and infiltrated the protesters — more evidence that the regulations were aimed, not generally to promote public safety, but specifically at the protesters in possible violation of their free-speech rights.“

I'm confused. What do free speech rights have to do with obeying a curfew law? They are two separate issues. And who, in their right mind, thinks anyone who matters is listening after 10 p.m. to these so-called 99%'er. And who determined that only 1% of the population is wealthy and this 99% is doing all the work?

I do not believe that the right to demonstrate on public property comes without some type of boundaries or "laws" if you will. They can go home like normal folks and come back in the morning.

By: Moonglow1 on 11/21/11 at 7:28

Moonglow1:

Like all obedient Tea Republican governors, Haslam's handlers (ALEC and Koch bros) told him to call in the troops to squash the movement!! Haslam is a weak and ineffective governor.

And I would advise the secretary (the one that went out for a smoke) to immediately stop smoking as her unhealthy behavior contributes to the high cost of health care. Why should the public have to pay higher insurance rates because of a Republican secretary's unhealthy behavior.

As far as the filthy people: well Haslam those are the faces of "The Homeless" and the extreme Tea agenda is causing a rise in the homeless population. With the help of "Occupy" in exposing your ignorance I hope to see you out of work soon. Although your trust fund may keep you from being homeless one can always hope your investments (in this economy which you helped create) will crash and then you may join the ranks of "The Filthy Homeless. "

By: girliegirl on 11/21/11 at 8:31

Can't we just charge them rent? Aren't they technically "squatters" by definition? Doesn't the city and the state charge fees for rallies such as this? If not, I'd suggest starting that process now.

By: girliegirl on 11/21/11 at 8:32

The TEA agenda didn't bring this....POTUS cherry picking winners did this. Just ask anyone who's lost their entire retirement lately.

By: girliegirl on 11/21/11 at 8:32

The TEA agenda didn't bring this....POTUS cherry picking winners did this. Just ask anyone who's lost their entire retirement lately.

By: dargent7 on 11/21/11 at 8:52

Nashville already has enough "black-eyes" w/o needing another.
Want to be like the Police pepper spraying peaceful UCLA-Davis college students with what looks like a paint sprayer?
Right or wrong, the cops are the bad guys on this issue.
What's next? Remember Kent State.
It's America for Christ's sake!

By: uhsaywhat on 11/21/11 at 9:03

Hey girliegirl, did you read the article? Your suggestion that they start charging protesters fees in the middle of a protest is essentially what Haslam attempted to do with his curfew. Unless the fees for using the space already existed before the protests began, they won't be upheld in court. And the occupy movement isn't a rally, it is a protest. Last time I checked, the government doesn't have the right to charge citizens a fee for expressing their rights to freedom of speech and to peaceably assemble. Out of curiosity, did you mean WHINERS in your second and third posts? Or did you really mean to call them winners?

By: dargent7 on 11/21/11 at 9:09

The simple question, simply stated: Do you prefer the Congressional fat cats, "on the take", "beholden to lobbyists", whores in Congress, entering office already wealthy and leaving as multi-millionaires (insider trading is legal for them), OR,
some kid who didn't bathe for a week, ate donated food, slept in his/her car, and peacefully assembled (the majority) ?
I know it's a hard one, take your time.
Think about the hypocritically bloated, thrice married, Newt Gingrich to help with your answer.

By: Jughead on 11/21/11 at 10:42

A bunch of smelly liberal dopeheads who NEVER work.

And those libtards are gonna tell me how my business is run? Over my damn dead body.

Glad David Briley has found his tribe. Hope he never finds his way to another elected office.

By: Jughead on 11/21/11 at 10:46

I can see the Occupy Stupidity people have plenty of time to post on these forums---while the real 99% GO TO WORK.

How about a new movement, libtards: Occupy Showers and Occupy Employment?

Oh--I forgot--you hate both as much as you hate working people.

By: dargent7 on 11/21/11 at 11:31

Jug: Many of us UN-Employed post "from work". All have computers at their desks and all have Internet access.
It takes all of 0.05 seconds to see where you right wing-ers are coming from.
This is once you rise from the sewers you live in, affectionately called, The Religious Conservative, "Family Values" Right Wing of the Republican Party.
And Uncle Newty speaks for all of you.

.

By: brrrrk on 11/21/11 at 11:49

Jughead said

"A bunch of smelly liberal dopeheads who NEVER work.

And those libtards are gonna tell me how my business is run? Over my damn dead body.

Glad David Briley has found his tribe. Hope he never finds his way to another elected office."

Really, you want to throw stones? With a name like Jughead?

By: govskeptic on 11/21/11 at 1:31

Actually, Newt had it exactly right on what he had to say recently on the
"Occupy Wall Street" mentality and purpose of a majority of these
protestors! The pretenses of many equating these sit-ins with anything
like those protesting the Vietnam War are comparing apples to cow dung!

By: Jughead on 11/21/11 at 3:06

I'm sick of spoiled-rotten, entitled Americans complaining about everything. Occupy Whatever, ACLU, NAACP...all the same. Give me something for nothing.

All because the Occupy libtards refuse to work. Scum.

By: Jughead on 11/21/11 at 3:09

The only thing these Occupy nimrods want is something for FREE. And, they want working people to pay for it.

Occupy FREELOADERS is more like it.

By: FrogJuice on 11/21/11 at 4:08

You know that all of you tree hugging, food stamp, welfare check collecting, union loving, Oblameo butt kissing libs have only one question to ask yourselfs.....Now that you have Oblameo (and Trumpka who spends more time in OUR White House than Oblameo does) and the rest of his "THUG'S" in office..How's that "DOPE AND BLAME" working out for you IDIOT libs now? I wonder how much the great divider Oblameo will get from his "fat cat bankers" on Wall Street this Month? You know, the SAME people/banks that Oblameo rails on about NOT paying their fair share (to who? Oblameo has all ready recevied more cash than ANYONE else in HISTORY running for POTUS from the SAME Wall Street folks that these "squatters" are camping out against) Divide and "control" is all the Oblameo and his Code Pink and their like are after!! Come on 2012 as a can of peas can and will beat Oblameo and ALL of his White House SLUGS, period!!

By: Moonglow1 on 11/21/11 at 8:53

Moonglow1: hey Frogluice-the correct spelling is yourselves not yourselfs. But my expectations for you Tea Nuts who are lovers of Newt Perry Bachmann Cain is very low. None of you work in real jobs. It is the Tea Nuts who are the free loaders. The private sector rapists-taking our hard earned tax money and squandering it on non performing private sector companies like Halliburton.

By: Gary Lampman on 11/21/11 at 11:22

Gov Haslem had it wrong in stating that Legisative Plaza belonged to the State! Truth is . It was taxpayers that erected that Plaza and the owners are not those who hold power!

Truth to Power is every citizens right to take to the streets and protest social injustices . Republicans cannot understand taking it to the streets because they are the ones that are abusing their offices. They are directly Responsible these inequalities, exploitation, and criminal Behavior.

In my view, Republicans are foolish to follow these childish self serving followers of whatever cult they chose to follow. Voter ID laws and a host of self serving ideaology has made things worse. Until their becomes changes founded on Fairness and equility and Justice. Then expect Greater and Greater Numbers of People to stand together. While Wall Street has been bailed out . They still give heffty bonuses in multiple millions of dollars. While they earn two to four million a Year. When is it enough? That is going to changed soon!!!

By: Jughead on 11/22/11 at 8:29

Yawn--the media keeps covering this story like a bad wart.

And the Democrats just keep getting hammered. The liberal socialist Occupy morons have hijacked the Democratic Party. Dixiecrats cannot feel comfortable sleeping with the Occupy Barney Frank crowd.

By: Jughead on 11/22/11 at 8:31

@Dimbulbman: Nothing is going to change. Capitalism is the best system, and Americans don't want your communism or socialism. The good news is: we are armed and not jacked up on anti-depressants like Occupy Libtards.

By: TRHJR on 11/22/11 at 9:32

liberial socialist dems ... Nasty pukes ..... throw their butts in jail then take tem out on CHAIN GANGS , give them a tooth brush and have tem clean the Plaza ....right on Jug ....

By: yucchhii on 11/22/11 at 11:53

I don't know any other words to say about this except the OBVIOUS... POLITICIANS ALL HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE AND THIS MAY WELL BE AN "UNCOVERING" IN THE PROCESS!! It matters NOT if you are a republican OR democrat, they ALL try to BS you in various ways!! There is NO truth with "POLITICIANS!" Haslam is NO exception to this and I say "SCREW" haslam..he is TRYING hard to look like he's with the protestors now when all he is, is a WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING!!!" BEWARE OF A POLITICIANS BS!!! KEEP IT UP OCCUPYERS!!!

By: Jughead on 11/22/11 at 1:41

Attention, attention, all Occupy Nimrods: Midnight meeting tonight at Occupy Area 51. Free Jim Jones Koolaid and a free ride on Hale Bopp. Bum a ride there from someone since you don't own cars.

By: pepawjoe on 11/24/11 at 11:02

Really now boys and girls. Everyone has the freedom to speak their piece. Then there's some who chose to exercise their self induced power control and expect the others to simply "OBEY" their every command. (The Governor)
Others too, who truely beleive every word spoken by the "ELECTED OFFICALS", be it Local, State, or National, seem to want to argue that they and they alone are "RIGHT" and everyone else is "WRONG". Neither caring what or when, just "ARGUING".
"Get a JOB. Go to Work, Go Home, these are just a few things we hear on a daily basis, mostly from individuals who are "STILL" lucky enough to "HAVE A JOB", "A PLACE TO WORK", and "A HOME TO GO TOO". When it's not their lives and families who are being thrown out of their homes, and given a "PINK SLIP" at work, it appears to be easy for some people to simply "GRIPE".
We all have to share and live by the conditions that our "Elected Officials" force upon us everyday. People that We put our Trust and Faith in, to do the right thing and support and represent "US". We all can see what really happens though. Corporate $$$$'s own and control any actions coming from our "GOVERNMENT". "THAT'S
THE COLD HARD FACTS". Anyone can beleive the facts as they actually are, or simply "IGNORE" what those facts actually are!

By: yucchhii on 11/26/11 at 9:56

To JUGHEAD... Good name you picked for yourself!! You ARE a JUGHEAD!! You show your TRUE intelligence whith what you say. There is an old saying "It is better to be THOUGHT of as a fool, than to open your mouth and REMOVE ALL DOUBT!! In this case you opened your mind (and it came through your fingers to the keyboard) 1- Those "SMELLY DOPHEADS are doing something that YOU OBVIOUSLY HAVE NO CLUE ABOUT!! 2- Those "SMELLY DOPHEADS" have jobs. Probably get paid MORE than YOU do!! SO, BEFORE you JUDGE someone, FIRST...You need to see a doctor to have a BRAIN installed, 2- ENGAGE that brain before running off at the finger tips OR mouth!! If you were to go to the place where they are and say those things to them in front of a crowd...Lol, they'd make "YOU" look the FOOL THAT YOU ARE!!!

By: yucchhii on 11/26/11 at 10:00

To JUGHEAD....Seems to me you have MORE THAN ONE DUMB comment on here...You SERIOUSLY NEED TO HANG IT UP BEFORE YOU GET HUNG OUT TO DRY!!! You make yourself to be the BIGGER AND BIGGER FOOL everytime you make a comment!!! There is PROOF THAT YOU "ARE" THAT FOOL!!!

By: yucchhii on 11/26/11 at 10:07

To TRHJR... Like I told the EMPTY JUGHEAD, he is making himself to be the biggest fool on here with comments that he has ABSOLUTELY NO WAY TO BACK UP!!! Are you trying to join HIS ranks? I DARE you to go out there to the occupyers and tell them that they're worthless and that they are druggies and smelly and anything else that HAPPENS to com to your EMPTY head, and then see how fast they point out how BIG a FOOL YOUR ARE AND THEN..."BACK IT UP"!!! I DARE YOU!!! If you don't, you have "NO RIGHT" to say the things you say and the same applies to the EMPTY JUGHEAD!!!