"We don't have the resources to go out and, in effect, babysit protesters."
As those words passed through the lips of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons on Oct. 28 after the first of two Tennessee Highway Patrol raids targeting Occupy Nashville's encampment at Legislative Plaza), THP troopers had, according to emails obtained by the Scene, been doing just that, albeit covertly and undercover.
Nearly 40 emails from a 1,000-plus-page document dump obtained by the Scene from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security illustrate the lengths to which state troopers effectively babysat the protesters during the month of October, despite the governor's claims otherwise, by occupying the plaza themselves to observe and report to their superiors.
In these emails, troopers repeatedly comment on the peaceful and friendly nature of the protesters, such as the following Oct. 9 dispatch from THP Lt. Col. Derek Stewart to Dept. of Safety personnel:
They are centered around the steps and top of the steps facing 6th Avenue and Deaderick Street which is on the East side of the Plaza. Some have left. Some have dropped off supplies (sleeping bags, clothes, sandwiches). There is a large wedding reception that will be on top of the Plaza and the War memorial Courtyard from 3:00 p.m. until late tonight. A large white tent is being set up for that event. Sgt. Williams and other Troopers are being paid. General Services Overtime to provide security at the event. At this time [the protesters] continue to be orderly and have a positive attitude towards [sic] the Troopers and Capitol Police.
Another report, dated Oct. 14 and sent to THP Lt. Preston Donaldson, mentions that the protesters "have organized their area so it looks neater than it did."
But by Oct. 25, all everyone in state government could talk about was piss, shit and orgies.
On that day, a flurry of emails details the fervor over reports of a couple fornicating under a magnolia tree on the plaza, the most spectacular of them written by State Capitol Facility Administrator David Carpenter.
FYI, this is from a legislative staff member that has contacted the Assistant Comptroller:
"There is an orgy going on out on the plaza. Celeste just saw a girl give a guy a ——job [sic] right in front of her window. She banged on the window and they just looked at her and kept going. The smokers are saying the smell of urine is so strong out on the WMB plaza that it's unbearable. These people have been smoking pot, defecating and urinating all over the place and from what we understand out security has it's [sic] hands tied. People are getting upset. I think someone is calling the governor's office. Celeste reported it to Metro police and she is calling the health department. Why can't the powers that be run these law-breaking hoodlums off government property?"
Pith is unsure when an old-fashioned "blank-job" constituted an orgy, but we're not here to speculate.
Oh, and about those people "getting upset?" One was State Rep. Eric Watson, who according to an Oct. 25 email from Lt. Donaldson called to complain about a "young couple having sex outside of his office window. I dispatched Trooper Paul Mathes who arrived and reported back to me that he found a young couple behind the trees that by that time they were fully clothed. He told them to clear the area and they followed his instruction."
And according to an Oct. 25 email written by Connie Ridley, Director for the Office of Legislative Administration, two more state representatives called to complain about the fornicatin' young couple:
I have just been informed by Reps Brooks and Johnson's office [sic] that a couple is having inappropriate relations behind the magnolia trees which are directly adjacent to the windows of the WMB.
Calls to Ridley in an effort to flesh out the identities of these representatives were not returned.
Other emails portray the cooperative spirit between city and state officials and Occupy Nashville regarding the mid-October Southern Festival of Books, which shared space with the anti-corruption rabblerousers the weekend of Oct. 14-16.
In an Oct. 11 email written by Lt. Donaldson to Jennifer Donnals, Communications Director for the Department of Safety and Homeland Security (and forwarded to her boss, Bill Gibbons), the lieutenant wrote:
I have just finished a conference call with Chief Legal Council for the Department of General Services and found that all parties (protest group and Book Festival) are in agreement that neither one in any way wants to interfere with the other... Again both groups are trying to avoid controversy and have been complimentary of everyone so far, they have stated that if they had known about the book festival they would have found another venue. I take this as good news.
It was also Donaldson who, just a week later on Oct.19, pined for some kind of protester-borne biological hazard to give the state a rationale for clearing out the hippie scum and appearing on the right side of public sentiment (bold emphasis mine):
If they start camping, I'm confident that a public health issue will soon develop ... Then the Health Dept [sic] can shut it down and we all look like the good guys. :-)
Yeah, you saw that right: A state law enforcement official actually used an emoticon to express his hopes that a "public health issue" would strike the very people he's sworn to protect.
Other emails call into question the Haslam administration's supposed inability to delineate between members of Occupy Nashville and the plaza's indigent homeless population. An Oct. 26 email from James Cotter, Regional Advisor for the Middle Tennessee office of the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security, clearly attributes the alleged unsanitary conditions at the plaza to homeless people.
"I went onto the plaza this morning and did a little mingling," Cotter wrote. "There is an increased homeless population, [and] there is a stink of urine and feces in one area and they are relieving themselves in the more secluded areas."
Another, dated Oct. 11 and written by Carpenter, specifically lays the blame for $4,000 worth of damage done to the plaza at the feet of the homeless.
We had a plaza stone broken last night when there was an altercation between some homeless individuals. They toppled a stone trash can, which in turn broke the stone [of the plaza].
As for the rest of the emails, some winners:
* MNPD Lt. Melvin S. Brown warns fellow Metro police officers of the potential danger posed by those darned flash mobs the kids are always Twittering about: "Flash mobs and 'rouse' flash mobs can be used to serve as a type of anarchist act to cause deployment of government resources and accompanying expense needlessly."
* Although THP Col. Tracy Trott has told the media that the police raids of Oct. 28 and 29 won't cost the state any extra money in terms of overtime, a handful of emails show that overtime pay was, indeed, willingly offered to those troopers willing to work the graveyard shift in the days leading up to the arrests. It is currently unclear how much overtime was paid to the more than 70 troopers who participated in the raids, in addition to the amount paid (if any) to other troopers whose primary job was to babysit the protesters.
* An Oct. 4 email from MNPD Special Events Coordinator David Corman to Donaldson and a fellow MNPD officer reveals that MNPD's "Special Investigation Division - Terrorism Unit" has been studying the burgeoning Occupy/"Day of Rage" movements and that this unit "can provide more insight on this group."
* On Oct. 26, THP Lt. Doug Taylor sent a mass email to police chiefs in several surrounding states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia) imploring them to complete an "Occupy Wall Street" fact-finding questionnaire. Among the questions featured on the survey: ""Do you have any protesters regarding Occupy Wall Street?" "Are they camping on/near your Capitol?" "Do you provide security for the protester [sic]?" "Are you providing any facilities for the protesters? (porta-potty, showers, power, etc." None of their responses were included in the records.
* MNPD officer Benjamin Rogers, responding to THP "protest updates" on Oct. 18 and 19, wished the already inclement weather to get worse for the protesters. "Yes, rain, snow and extreme hot or cold will separate the true believers from the 'also showed up,'" he wrote on the 18th. The next day, Rogers invoked pagan elemental gods when he wrote "Advise the [Capitol] employees to continue their rain dance, add a cold wind dance."