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VOL. 36 | NO. 10 | Friday, March 9, 2012




Lone protester remains at Legislative Plaza

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NASHVILLE (AP) - A lone protester was still maintaining his vigil Friday at the Occupy Nashville camp on Legislative Plaza in the face of a new state law meant to evict the protesters.

Christopher Humphrey, 24, remained in a small tent covered in a blue tarp and several handwritten signs in front of the state Capitol. The state gave the protesters a seven-day notice on March 2 to remove their encampment, but it wasn't clear when the Tennessee Highway Patrol would start enforcing the law.

The protesters started preparing for more arrests after midnight on Friday morning, but as of Friday afternoon, no move had been made to remove Humphrey's tent or clean up the camping equipment that had been left on the plaza. There was also no police presence at the plaza, and it was mostly empty of protesters on Friday.

The Legislature last month passed a statute prohibiting camping on state property that is not specifically designated for it. Gov. Bill Haslam signed the bill into law.

Violators can face up to a year in jail or a fine of up to $2,500 or both. The main provision of the legislation would make it a misdemeanor to lay down "bedding for the purpose of sleeping" on government-owned land at the Capitol. It refers to items associated with camping, "including tents, portable toilets, sleeping bags, tarps, stakes, ropes, blankets, propane heaters, cooking equipment and generators."

State troopers raided the encampment in late October and made 55 arrests, but Gov. Bill Haslam ordered the charges dropped when Nashville courts refused to jail the protesters. The state backed down and decided not to fight a federal court order that found the raids had violated the First Amendment rights of the protesters.

Critics contend the new law passed last month will in effect criminalize homelessness. Like many of the Occupy Wall Street groups, the protesters in Nashville have used the Legislative Plaza where lawmakers work to protest corporate influence in government and income inequality.

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