The Tennessee Highway Patrol said at a press conference today that the new rules for being on Capitol grounds, including the Legislative Plaza, were a reasonable restriction and the agency can't "baby sit" the Occupy Nashville protestors 24/7.
In a press conference held this morning, Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons and THP Col. Tracy Trott said they will continue to enforce the curfew.
"We respect the right to peacefully protest, but we want protestors to adhere to policy," Gibbons said at the press conference. "If they don't adhere, (THP) will enforce it."
Troopers arrived at Legislative Plaza at 3 a.m. and announced that the people there were violating the curfew and gave them 10 minutes to remove belongings and leave.
Gibbons defended the arrests, saying the troopers were not "heavy-handed."
Gibbons and Trott said the time was chosen to prevent disruption of the businesses around the Plaza. Gibbons said Gov. Bill Haslam's administration signed off on the operation.
There were 29 Occupy Nashville protestors who stayed on the Plaza and were arrested. These protestors received Class C Misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing. Those arrested were: Connie L. Smith, 30, Murfreesboro; Shauna C. Pluskota, 25, Nashville; Elizabeth L. Drake, 22, Memphis; Mark A. Vanzant, 22, Murfreesboro; Darria J. Hudson, 23, Nashville; Stoyocho M. Velkovsky, 21, Nashville; Michael P. Custer, 47, Nashville; James R. Bradley, 39, Nashville; Michael Anger, 30, Lexington, Ky.; Jeremiah M. Carter, 19, Bellevue; Tristan P. Call, 25, Nashville; Corey B. Amons, 23, Cottontown; Eric C. Painter, 44, Smyrna; Michael T. Weber, 35, Fayetteville; Lindsey G. Krinks, 26, Nashville; Alexander Pusateri, 20, Memphis; Megan L. Riggs, 25, Nashville; Eva N. Watler, 34, Pegram; William R. White, 21, Mt. Juliet; Adam K. Knight, 27, Smyrna; Robert J. Stowater, 27, Memphis; Christopher L. Humphrey, 24, Nashville; John H. Allen, 36, Nashville; Jeremy L. Scott, 27, Hermitage; Lawren M. Plummer, 24, Nashville; Scott P. Akers, 42, Madison; Paula E. Painter, 55, Cumberland City; Alesandra T. Bellos, 33, Nashville; William W. Howell, 64, Nashville.
Gibbons said the protestors were held longer than expected because the judicial commissioner had taken a lunch break.
Trott said the Highway Patrol, which oversees security operations on the Capitol grounds, doesn't have overtime built into its budget. Trott said he did not know the amount of overtime paid for the overnight operation. There were 75 troopers involved.
Updated at 9:30 a.m.:
Twenty-nine Occupy Nashville protesters were released from the Metro Jail Friday morning after they were arrested and cited with criminal trespassing. They were placed in a holding cell for about six hours after they were arrested by state police around 3 a.m.
The Occupy Nashville organizers said they will hold a general assembly meeting Friday at 7 p.m. at Legislative Plaza.
A Nashville judge said that the protesters that were arrested should not be charged.
The protesters will remain in custody until the judge speaks with Tennessee Highway Patrol officials.
Officers arrived at Legislative Plaza around 3 a.m. in buses filled with about 50 to 100 law enforcement officers.
They gave protesters 10 minutes to leave, a five-minute warning and then the demonstrators joined arms and refused.
Officers arrested around 25 protesters who refused to leave the area. No one fought back and all of the protestors were pushed away by the troopers.
Demonstrators have been camping out at Legislative Plaza for nearly three weeks.
The removal came just one day after the Department of General Services announced that the Capital grounds, the War Memorial Courtyard and the Legislative Plaza in Downtown Nashville will now be closed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The curfew was imposed because of the protest.
Officials asked demonstrators to leave their post in front of the Capitol by Friday.
Demonstrators said they won't leave because they haven't broken any laws and would continue to peacefully practice their American right to free speech and protest.
Metro police had a different story, after two arrests were made by undercover officers Tuesday for selling marijuana to undercover officers.
Protesters met with officials Wednesday to discuss more protection for the officers because the group felt they were being falsely accused of acts that homeless community members committed.
Occupy leaders said the state was supposed to give them a written proposal Thursday morning about exactly what kind of protection they can and cannot offer while they are here.
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