"Not tonight," state spokeswoman Lola Potter tells Pith. "We're just now announcing the policy after 1 o'clock in the afternoon, so we're not going to enforce it today. We're going to assume that they are going to do the right thing and get a permit tomorrow. We're going to assume they'll be adults and get a permit. We're hoping they will abide by what we're asking them to do. If they don't they'll be in violation of what we have put in place."
The new policy will force Occupy Nashville to ask for permits from state government each day to demonstrate. Protests will be allowed only between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.
"The Plaza is really not structured for habitation, so that's why we have a curfew," Potter says.
The state's reaction to the protesters raises issues: If TPAC guests walk onto the Plaza after 10 p.m. to gaze at the burbling fountain, do they risk arrest? What about an ink-stained wretch strolling happily home from an evening of revelry at the Sports Page? Is this martial law? We asked Potter these questions and her answers were something less than satisfactory: "We have to maintain order," she says. "It's just as easy to walk around it." She did promise to pass along our concerns to the proper authorities.
Update: Protesters will need 65 smackers a day and liability insurance to wrest one of the new permits from the state, officials now say. We guess that's in the fine print somewhere.
Here is the statement that came with the new policy's announcement:
Criminal activity and deteriorating sanitary conditions over the past several days on Legislative Plaza have created an environment that is unsafe for the protesters, state employees and everyone who works, lives and enjoys downtown. As a result, the Department of General Services is adding to its policy for permitting and use of Legislative Plaza, the War Memorial Building and the Capitol grounds. Permits will be granted on a daily basis from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Here's the new state policy:
LEGISLATIVE PLAZA, WAR MEMORIAL COURTYARD AND CAPITOL GROUNDS USE POLICY
Department of General Services
Effective immediately and until further notice, all assemblies and gatherings of persons on the State of Tennessee Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard and Capitol grounds areas in Nashville, Tennessee shall require a use permit from the Tennessee Department of General Services. Use of any portion of the Capitol grounds also requires the approval of the Tennessee Capitol Commission.
The Department of General Services may issue permits upon proper application and satisfaction of use fees, security and liability insurance requirements for use of the Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard and Capitol grounds between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Special use permits for the Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard and Capitol grounds during hours outside of the 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. period may be approved at the discretion of the Department on a case by case basis.
Notwithstanding the above, the Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard and Capitol grounds areas are closed to the public from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. daily and no person shall enter upon those premises during this curfew period without specific authorization by the State of Tennessee. In no event shall overnight occupancy of the Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard or Capitol grounds areas be permitted by any group or individual.
The foregoing policy is issued under the authority of T. C. A. § 4-8-101 and in the interest of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. Issued this 27th day of October, 2011 by the Tennessee Department of General Services.