State GOP chairman Chris Devaney is quickly drawing flak in the liberal blogosphere for saying Democrats should send a "decontamination crew" to Occupy Nashville. Devaney's comments, made in response to Democrats' belated statements of support for the protesters, sounded straight out of the Vietnam era when law-and-order Republicans tarred anti-war protesters as smelly bums. Here's Devaney's statement:
It is astonishing that Tennessee Democrats are defending ‘Occupy Nashville.’ If the Democrats want to associate themselves with this bunch, more power to them; but I think it shows how out of touch they are with everyday Tennesseans. Their real focus should be President Obama and protesting his lack of leadership on the economy and jobs. Maybe on top of the pizzas they’ve offered to purchase, they might also offer to pay for the decontamination crew.
Legislative Plaza is the property of all Tennesseans, not just a small group of loiterers who would've served their cause better by simply occupying a restroom, instead of showing utter disregard for public property.
Update: In other words, "Get off my lawn, you dirty hippies!"
"I can't think of any more quintessential public forum than the Legislative Plaza," she said, calling the governor's actions "clear prior restraint of free speech." She said she was "most gratified" and "not too surprised" that the state was conceding the first round in the lawsuit filed this morning by Occupy Nashville and the ACLU.
The two sides agreed to negotiate ways to accommodate the protesters while maintaining public safety at the Plaza. They were given until Nov. 21, at which point they'll go back to court. If there's no deal, then Trauger will decide whether to make her injunction permanent. Oh yes, the state also agreed to return the protesters' tents, soggy sleeping bags and other possessions that troopers confiscated on the first night of arrests and tossed into the back of a pickup truck in the Plaza garage.
As for the curfew enforcement, the curfew remains in effect and is intended, in part, to help ensure the safety of the protesters. We urge them to adhere to the conditions of the policy. For security reasons, we cannot comment specifically on the THP's enforcement efforts, but the goal remains the same and that is to provide for the safety and security of everyone on the plaza.
That's a baffling response, to put it politely. Let us get this straight. The protesters asked for protection against trouble-making street people. In response, Haslam ordered the protesters arrested for their own safety? Sort of like taking someone into protective custody, we guess. As for why the state now is enforcing the curfew randomly—two nights on, two nights off—there's no comment. The state cared about the protesters' safety on Thursday and Friday but not Saturday and Sunday?
No matter. This probably is a moot question—as the lawyers say—because this afternoon, we expect federal Judge Aleta Trauger to slap an injunction on the state to prohibit any new arrests.
UPDATE: Links to PDFs of the court documents have been added to the end of this post.
As expected over the weekend, Occupy Nashville protesters backed legally by the ACLU have launched a civil suit against Tennessee state officials [PDF], intending to halt the crackdowns by state troopers on Legislative Plaza that transpired in the early morning hours Friday and Saturday.
Named as defendants in the suit are Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, and Tennessee Department of
Civil General Services Commissioner Steven G. Cates. Also listed as defendants are the as-yet unnamed Tennessee Highway Patrol officers ("Does 1-100") who participated in the arrests.
The suit, filed today by attorneys David Briley and Patrick Frogge in cooperation with the ACLU's Tricia Herzfeld in U.S. District Court, accuses the state of "abridg[ing] Plaintiffs' rights of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 1, Section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution." It seeks a halt to the arrests through "declaratory and injunctive relief," return of any property seized during the raids, and monetary damages for the "unlawful detention" of the plaintiffs. A hearing is set for 3:30 this afternoon before Judge Aleta Trauger.
Among those plaintiffs is Malina Chavez Shannon, 34, a student journalist who went to Legislative Plaza late Friday night to photograph events. Evidently she never got that far. The suit alleges she was on the sidewalk abutting 6th Avenue North when she was detained and arrested by state troopers. Furthermore, it claims that Shannon — who, according to others arrested, was trying to protect her camera gear from being demolished in the arrest — was bound so tightly that her zipline cuffs had to be removed at the Metro jail by a nurse with surgical scissors.
Another plaintiff is Darria Janey Hudson, 23, a Vanderbilt divinity student and former Fisk University student minister. The suit points out that she has studied with the Rev. James Lawson, one of the heroes of the 1960 Nashville student sit-in movement that proved a catalyst of the civil rights movement. Now, as then, the eyes of the world are increasingly focused on Nashville.
Of course, the story is all the more damning for Gov. Haslam and the THP due to the growing video evidence, including Meador's original video, posted here on Saturday, and other videos that have been turning up. That includes the one above, shot by Vanderbilt law student and former Scene reporter John Spragens, acting on the scene as a legal observer for the National Lawyers Guild. It features the cuffed Meador being taken on the bus as onlookers scold patrolmen for arresting a member of the press.
Here's an excerpt from the Gawker story:
This YouTube—which quickly becomes audio-only — captures the odd arrest of Jonathan Meador, a Nashville Scene reporter who was covering the October 28 police crackdown on the Occupy Nashville protest when Tennessee Highway Patrol officers arrested him and and charged him with public intoxication and criminal trespass. The officers discuss charging Meador with resisting arrest — even though he doesn't sound like he was resisting arrest.
He also doesn't sound publicly intoxicated. At no time during the recording do the officers suggest that Meador is drunk. Maybe it's because he wasn't? "He was not drinking, and he did not appear to be drunk," a man described as a "media relations consultant, journalist, and former Republican spokesman" told the Tennessean newspaper. Chris Ferrell, the publisher of the company that owns the Scene, says the cops never administered a Breathalyzer test or a blood test to prove that Meador was intoxicated. Meador says he had one drink with dinner, but unless he had a full tankard of Diet Vodka he did not get drunk. So where did that public intox charge come from, then?
But the legislators swore in affidavits that’s all they’ve got that might interest the plaintiffs, and Davidson County Chancellor Carol McCoy ruled this morning that was good enough for her.
“I guess we’ll take them at their word,” said Abby Rubenfeld, attorney for Metro Council members and others who brought the lawsuit.
“I do,” the judge said.
That meant the court never heard arguments on the lawmakers’ claim that they basically are above the law and don’t have to obey subpoenas. To say the least, it was an expansive view of legislative privilege contained in the state constitution. That privilege in the past has been interpreted only to shield legislators from liability in lawsuits for statements made during debates on the House or Senate floor. But Gotto, Casada and Beavers argued they enjoy immunity for their actions outside the legislature as well, even those that are strictly political in nature.
Halloween Movie Night: The Phantom of the Opera w/Organist Tom Trenney
Where: Schermerhorn Symphony Center
When: 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 31
The Nashville Symphony is hosting a one-night-only screening of The Phantom of the Opera — the original silent film version from 1925 — just in time for Halloween. The archaic eeriness of the film is worth watching on its own, but what makes this presentation especially notable is its accompaniment by Tom Trenney, the organist and minister of music at First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, Neb.
Trenney is nationally known for his improvisations on hymns, artwork and — for our listening pleasure — silent films, and he’ll perform tonight alongside the film’s screening. His ability to effortlessly capture emotions through music is an experience unto itself, and will surely be heightened with the iconic phantom — performed by the equally iconic Lon Chaney — as the backdrop.
Occupy Nashville defied the governor's curfew for the third straight night at Legislative Plaza, but this time state troopers never arrived to make arrests. At 6 o’clock as the curfew lifted, a cheer went up and protesters declared victory—at least for one day—in their free-speech fight with the state.
“We won this battle and now we’re going to win the war,” organizer Mike Anger said.
Organizers said there were 75 protesters, including a 14-year-old boy, prepared to be taken into custody in acts of civil disobedience Saturday night—more than double the number for each of the first two nights of arrests. In a new tactic, six demonstrators chained themselves to a flagpole to await the troopers who never came. They carried little pictures of Gandhi.
The Tennessee state trooper who arrested Scene reporter Jonathan Meador last night on Legislative Plaza during the THP's second late-night crackdown on the Occupy Nashville protests was kind enough to slip the small video flip-cam Meador was carrying back into his pocket. Thanks to him, Meador was able to produce this unedited video of his own arrest — or to be more accurate, the audio, since with troopers slamming Meador to the ground from behind and rendering him helpless, the image isn't so hot.
No matter. The sound speaks volumes.
What you will hear, very clearly, is a trooper telling another officer to book Meador for resisting arrest. You will also hear, very clearly, audio evidence of Meador's contention: that he was simply doing his job as a reporter and tried to get off the plaza to comply with the law — but the troopers wouldn't let him off that easy.
What you will not hear, in any form or fashion, is the slightest mention of public intoxication — the specious charge against Meador the THP has broadcast to the world. If that charge was made up later to discredit Meador — or even more appallingly, to divert attention from what a Metro Night Court judge last night told officers was a blatantly unconstitutional overstepping of government and police authority — nobody who cares about their First Amendment freedoms should sleep in Tennessee tonight.
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