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VOL. 35 | NO. 45 | Friday, November 11, 2011




Public records reveal protester support

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A flood of support for Wall Street protesters poured in after Gov. Bill Haslam imposed a curfew that led to the arrests of 55 people in Nashville, according to public records obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Of nearly 400 emails sent to the Republican governor's office, only 11 supported his actions.

"Keep up the good work," said an email from Sherri Tittle. "I appreciate you not being swayed by these protesters or the media."

However, the majority voiced their disdain, some from as far away as Australia.

"I write to you from Repton, NSW, Australia, to express my strongest disapproval of the actions you are taking against the members of Occupy Nashville," wrote Nick Rose. "Freedom of assembly is a basic right. Your actions are flagrant violations."

The documents also include cost estimates for cleaning the plaza following the protest. One company on Oct. 31 said it would cost more than $46,000 to clean and refinish the surface, while another estimated it to be about $18,000 to pressure wash and treat the areas.

Haslam has said one of the reasons for the curfew was because of complaints about unsanitary conditions on the grounds around the Capitol.

An email from Jeremy Harrell, the governor's director of constituent services, on the morning of Oct. 27, said he was preparing talking points for his staff to respond to questions about the protesters.

They included that "it's no longer safe for the occupy protesters or the community at large to remain on the plaza overnight," and that they "can still protest during the daytime hours" after the curfew went into effect.

An email from state Department of General Services attorney Thad Watkins told staffers that the new policy would speak for itself once the curfew was posted along the Capitol grounds.

"No one should try to answer any questions about interpreting the policy," Watkins said. "It's pretty clear and means what it says."

Protesters had been camping at the Legislative Plaza for about three weeks when the curfew was announced Oct. 27. The arrests began in the early morning of Oct. 28 and came again on Oct. 29. But protesters were never jailed because a Nashville magistrate refused to sign the warrants, saying he did not believe the administration had the authority to order the curfew.

Two days later, the protesters saw another victory when they went to federal court seeking a temporary restraining order.

Then Monday, a Nashville judge dismissed trespassing and other citations against 55 Occupy Nashville protesters and ordered their records expunged.

After that ruling, Haslam signaled in an interview with the AP that the fight to remove the protesters, or at least curtail their activities, was not over. He said new rules for the space are in the works, and his administration is developing them in cooperation with constitutional lawyers and people who use the space.

On Tuesday, the governor told reporters after a series of budget hearings that Nashville protesters are "working hard to police the area."

"That doesn't change the fact that we have some real concerns long-term about safety and sanitation and use of the plaza," he said.

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