Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy Nashville: the Little Encampment That Could

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Police in Los Angeles and Philadelphia evicted Occupy Wall Street protesters last night, shutting down two of the longest-lasting remaining encampments. So with many leaders saying it’s about time to come in from the cold anyway, the movement is declaring victory, debating new tactics and reorganizing indoors all over the country—but not Nashville.

Here, protesters are hunkering down for the holidays. When the governor and first lady switched on the lights on the Capitol’s Christmas tree this week, there they were like Santa’s merry elves milling about on the Legislative Plaza in the seventh week of their occupation.

Protesters feel so at home they've been flying kites and square dancing. As Pithster Steve Haruch posts below, Occupy Nashville now is drawing national attention as a man-bites-dog oddity.

“I feel like in a lot of ways … Nashville is starting to become maybe a bit of a tender spot or a hearthstone for other occupiers,” one demonstrator, Samantha Blanchard, told MSNBC. “We’re like the little heartbeat, the little southern hospitality of the movement.”

To paraphrase our favorite aide to the governor, Thaddeus E. Watkins III: Fun times!

For this, Occupy Nashville can thank Gov. Bill Haslam. His ham-handed attempt to clear the plaza boomeranged. At the start, Occupy Nashville was a few crust punks and old hippies. Now, protesters claim a core group of nearly 100, with maybe 400 part-time supporters, and there’s a federal court injunction protecting the encampment—at least until sometime next year.

If Haslam had only waited and thought things through a bit, the public response might have been more to his liking. Since his blunder, police in other cities have shocked the nation by wantonly pepper-spraying protesters. By comparison, Tennessee’s troopers were teddy bears. Some of those zip-ties went on too tight, but that’s about as brutal as it got. Still, Haslam came across as a mean-spirited dolt. If he moved in today with the same show of force, the media might hail him as a humanitarian. In politics, remember, timing is everything.

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