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VOL. 35 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 30, 2011




Officials expected cold to dislodge Occupy protest

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Some law enforcement officials expected bad weather would eventually disperse Occupy Nashville protesters encamped on the plaza across the street from the state Capitol, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.

The Safety Department emails were released after a public records request.

Protesters have occupied the plaza since early October. At the time there were about 20 tents, with at least two people occupying each one. There are now roughly 60 tents, and protesters say they're prepared for an indefinite stay, despite the onset of wintry weather.

In an Oct. 18 email, Tennessee Highway Patrol Maj. Rex Prince predicted the protesters wouldn't be able to withstand the bad weather.

"They will thin out when this weather down in West Tenn reaches Nashville," he wrote. "Gusty winds, rain and drastic temp changes (dropped 20 degrees so far)."

Nashville police officer Benjamin Rodgers agreed.

" Yes, rain, snow and extreme hot or cold will separate the true believers from the 'also showed up' ...", he wrote in another Oct. 18 email.

The only dispersion that took place occurred several days later when state troopers raided the encampment and made 55 arrests. Since then, the state has had to back down. Gov. Bill Haslam ordered the charges dropped when Nashville courts refused to jail the protesters, and the state isn't fighting a federal court order that found the raids had violated the First Amendment rights of the protesters.

Occupy Nashville has reoccupied the plaza, the number of tents has almost tripled, portable toilets have been installed and troopers walk a patrol. The protesters, who are now among the larger remaining groups nationwide, say they've winterized their tents and don't plan on going anywhere, despite temperatures expected to plunge into the 20s after New Year's.

Shana Kupiainen, 23, said she and her husband have put a tarp over th eir tent to help keep out the rain, insulated the base of the tent, and supplied it with plenty of blankets.

"We ... plan to stick it out day by day," said Kupiainen, who has an apartment but decided to support her fellow protesters.

Ricky Adams said he and his wife could also be elsewhere, but they also are staying with other protesters on the plaza in a show of solidarity.

"This cold weather ... is not going to run us up out of here," said the 61-year-old Vietnam veteran. "We're going to be right here till the end."

Exactly when that is remains uncertain. Haslam has said his administration is crafting a new policy to govern the plaza's use.

A much smaller protest in Murfreesboro disbanded after cold weather moved in over the weekend. Scott Martindale of Occupy Murfreesboro told the Daily News Journal that the group decided before the cold snap, which sent low temperatures down to around 20, to abandon camping out in front of City Hall but will continue other actions.

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