Law enforcement officials are defending their overnight crackdown on protesters aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some had been camped out in front of the state capitol for three weeks. Others are activists who showed up just for the confrontation. In all, 29 were arrested and cited with criminal trespassing.
It’s a class-C misdemeanor with a max fine of $50. Tennessee Commissioner of Safety Bill Gibbons says state troopers are simply enforcing the state’s new ban on spending the night at Legislative Plaza.
The Occupy Nashville protesters, themselves, had raised concerns about their safety. Gibbons says the new curfew is a “reasonable restriction” to maintain order.
“We are not in position, we don’t have the resources to go out and in effect babysit protesters 24/7.”
Asked why he sent 75 troopers to do the job at 3 a.m., Gibbons says he wanted to have the least impact on the public.
The Department of Safety has now published protesters’ names, ages and hometowns.
Adam Knight says he doesn’t care who knows about his arrest, which he calls “empowering.” In fact, he’s using it as a teaching tool for his students at Metro’s Two Rivers Middle School.
“I didn’t want them to hear that I had been arrested and think something bad was going on, so I let them know yesterday.”
Knight got a substitute teacher to cover for him today just in case, but went back to school after being released to tell his students about the experience.
The arrested protesters range from college students to middle aged, with the oldest being 64. That’s Bill Howell, a well-known advocate for a state income tax.