It's not Governor Haslam's right to decide which protesters are welcome on public property and which ones are not. Whether it's Occupy Nashville or the Tea Party, the public has a constitutional right to address their feelings to the government on public land, which is the Legislative Plaza. This is uncharted territory and it's very slippery territory given our fundamental right to express our grievances, whatever they may be, to our government. Governor Haslam overstepped his bounds dramatically. It's heartening to know a sensible judge understands the constitution and dismissed the charges as irrelevant.
Forrester is referring to Metro Night Court Judge Tom Nelson, who has become something of a hero with the Occupy Nashville movement after dressing down the highway patrol for suddenly imposing the Capitol curfew and hauling the protesters to jail this morning. Nelson told the trooper in charge:
I am not criticizing the highway patrol. But you have no lawful basis to arrest or charge those people. For three weeks, they've sat up there and protested under no admonition whatsoever that they were violating state policy with regard to camping out on Legislative Plaza or that they were committing a crime. When the state issued its memorandum today, imposing a curfew and changing the rules right in the middle of a protest, they can do that, but they have to give them adequate opportunity to comply with the rules.