Oct 29, 2011 3 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
(CBS/AP) NASHVILLE, Tenn. – State troopers for the second straight night arrested anti-Wall Street protesters for defying a new nighttime curfew imposed by the Republican governor, in an effort to disband an encampment near the state Capitol in Nashville.
And also, for a second time, a Nashville night judge dismissed the arrest warrants.
The Tennessean newspaper reported early Saturday morning that Magistrate Tom Nelson told troopers delivering the protesters to jail that he could “find no authority anywhere for anyone to authorize a curfew anywhere on Legislative Plaza.”
Occupy Nashville protesters – including many of the 29 arrested in a pre-dawn raid on Friday – returned to the Legislative Plaza that evening and remained through the 10 p.m. curfew.
There was no noticeable law enforcement presence for nearly two hours after the curfew went into effect on Friday night, while adjacent theaters let out and patrons filtered back through the plaza to their cars without being challenged for violating the restrictions.
“Nothing was done to them, they were not arrested,” said protester Michael Custer, 46. “But we are arrested while we are expressing our constitutional right to free speech.”
Once the theater traffic cleared, dozens of state troopers descended on the plaza and began arresting protesters and a journalist for the Nashville Scene, an alternative weekly newspaper.
Troopers arrested 26 people this time. All were charged with trespassing; two were also charged with public intoxication; and one was also charged with criminal impersonation, Department of Safety spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said. The judicial commissioner refused to issue warrants for any of the charges.
Officials said 72 troopers were involved in the curfew enforcement.
“To see it from the other side is even more infuriating,” said Chip Allen, one of the protesters arrested in the first raid. “When you’re in it, it’s almost surreal. This takes on a whole ‘nother flavor.”
Protesters remaining at the scene vowed to return Saturday, even if it means more arrests.
The arrests came after a week of police crackdowns around the country on Occupy Wall Street activists, who have been protesting economic inequality and what they call corporate greed.