Ten days after a new state law outlawed camping on state-owned property, Occupy Nashville's five-month encampment on War Memorial Plaza came to an end.
For the better part of a week, protesters awaited enforcement of the newly enacted HB2638. The law makes it illegal to camp for long periods of time on state-owned property, which critics contend effectively outlaws homelessness.
Around 3:50 a.m. March 12, approximately 30 officers of the Tennessee Highway Patrol removed the last tent of Occupy Nashville's flagship occupation without incident. Unlike October's ham-fisted crackdown — which saw the arrests of 50 protesters and two journalists, including myself — the THP refrained from detaining the few protesters. They watched as the tent was broken down by officers and loaded onto a truck.
The tent's occupant, Chris Humphrey, was dragged out by officers. Humphrey had volunteered to get arrested to challenge the new law's constitutionality in court. But officers declined to slap cuffs on the last Occupier's outstretched arms.
Humphrey, 24, has camped with the local movement since it began Oct. 7. Prior to that, he wrote for The Contributor. He says he supported the broader Occupy Wall Street movement to improve conditions for the city's most marginalized denizens.
The morning of the eviction, Occupy Nashville issued a press release saying its ranks were not leaving the plaza.
"The new anti-homelessness law does not prevent occupiers from using the plaza 24/7 to continue its protest against corporate personhood and money in politics," reads the release. "Occupy Nashville will maintain an information table on Legislative Plaza and will continue organizing, rallying, building alliances with other community organizations, fighting foreclosures and organizing tenants against slumlords."
At its height, the camp commanded between 60 and 70 tents, and offered free food and first aid to Occupiers and homeless alike. They lasted out the bitter winter months on the stone plaza. It was the Tennessee spring they could not withstand.
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