Over the weekend, we highlighted a video of a night court judge in Tennessee refusing to jail Occupy Nashville demonstrators after they'd been arrested, bussed downtown by state troopers, and detained for several hours in the wake of a seemingly arbitrary enforcement of a curfew in a public space where protesters had been camping out. As seen in that video, Judge Tom Nelson ordered the protesters released, telling the arresting officer, "You have no lawful basis to arrest or charge these people."
A similar scene played out after arrests on two nights in a row, where the judge refused to jail the protesters.
And now, late today, comes yet another, even larger victory for Occupy Nashville demonstrators, along with a stinging rebuke for the state's Republican Governor Bill Haslam. The turn of events is certainly great news for admirers of the U.S. Constitution and the Rule of Law and stuff, as the state has "declined to defend the governor's crackdown on protesters" in the wake of a lawsuit filed by demonstrators and the ACLU.
Additionally, the state will not challenge a federal judge's order banning further arrests of the demonstrators for the time being as the parties attempt to negotiate together. The state has even agreed to return confiscated tents, sleeping bags and other property taken from the protesters on the first night of arrests at Nashville's Legislative Plaza...
"I can't think of any more quintessential public forum than the Legislative Plaza," she said, calling the governor's actions "clear prior restraint of free speech." She said she was "most gratified" and "not too surprised" that the state was conceding the first round in the lawsuit filed this morning by Occupy Nashville and the ACLU.
The two sides agreed to negotiate ways to accommodate the protesters while maintaining public safety at the Plaza. They were given until Nov. 21, at which point they'll go back to court. If there's no deal, then Trauger will decide whether to make her injunction permanent. Oh yes, the state also agreed to return the protesters' tents, soggy sleeping bags and other possessions that troopers confiscated on the first night of arrests and tossed into the back of a pickup truck in the Plaza garage.
Read Jeff Woods' coverage at Nashville Scene for more details on this great news, including some of the remarkable charges listed in the complaint against the state, and comments from the complainants attorney who charges: "The commissioner of safety kidnapped these kids. That’s what he did."
The news will undoubtedly buoy the spirits of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators elsewhere in the nation, where similarly arbitrary enforcement of the Rule of Law has often led to mass arrests, including in Chicago (where Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel "advised" police during a recent crackdown), in Oakland (where Democratic Mayor Jean Quan oversaw some 18 law enforcement agencies who carried out a brutal assault on protesters, resulting in the critical brain injury to an Iraq vet), and even in Albany, NY where police refused to follow orders to arrest Occupiers in defiance of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.