New Penalties Keep Some Occupiers From Testing Law

Signs have been posted on state property for the last week since Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law making unauthorized camping on state property a Class A misdemeanor.

Signs have been posted on state property for the last week since Gov. Bill Haslam signed a law making unauthorized camping on state property a Class A misdemeanor.

A spokesperson for the Department of Safety says the state is “prepared to enforce” a new law restricting camping on government property. As of Friday morning, however, several tents from Occupy Nashville protesters remain on War Memorial Plaza.

A small group of protesters are making plans to be arrested. Jason Steen watched in the fall as more than 50 Occupiers were handcuffed over two nights.

“I was on the media team filming the ones who got arrested in October. I tried to get arrested the third night and they never came, so I finally get my chance.”

Those arrested in October were released. Their $50 citations were also thrown out.

Michael Custer was arrested in October but says he can't afford the new risks.

Michael Custer was arrested in October but says he can’t afford the new risks.

But now the punishment has been increased to a Class A misdemeanor. The maximum fine is $2,500 or a year behind bars. Michael Custer was arrested in the fall and says now the risk is too great.

“I have a lot going on in my life, and I can’t afford to spend a year in jail.”

Custer and others who’ve been voluntarily sleeping on state property say they worry about the effects on truly homeless people who could now be swept up.


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