Governor Warns of More Arrests Tonight Unless Occupy Nashville Backs Down

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Gov. Bill Haslam is warning that state troopers will enforce the Capitol's new curfew again tonight if Occupy Nashville protesters refuse to back down. “If we’re going to have laws, we have to enforce laws,” he said this afternoon in Knoxville where he went to a University of Tennessee trustees meeting.

The governor said he approved the decision early this morning to end the three-week occupation of Legislative Plaza to protect public safety and because of increasingly unsanitary conditions. Defending the action, he said state officials "don't really have the ability" to distinguish between law-abiding citizens exercising their First Amendment rights and street people who might have been causing trouble at the Plaza.

It was my understanding that we were going to enforce the curfew from the very beginning. In 14 hours, you should have time to decide whether you’re going to stay or not. Literally, the situation continued to deteriorate here. It’s a question of the conditions were getting worse. I keep using the word deteriorate. That was literally what was happening in this case. We don’t really have the ability to say, ‘Well, these are Occupy Nashville folks, and these are folks who have been homeless in Nashville.' We had an issue on Legislative Plaza that really did create an unsafe and unsanitary … condition.

Here's more of what Haslam said:

We were receiving increasing complaints from legislators and from citizens and from Metro Nashville as well. Our job is to protect the safety of folks. Our team at General Services, working with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, said we think the curfew is the best way to protect that.

There have been numerous cases of robbery there. There have been just some other behavior that I don’t think people felt were appropriate for a public space. We had an issue on Legislative Plaza that really did create an unsafe and unsanitary condition. We want to be real clear. We’re not saying they can’t be there. We just set a curfew. We believe in and respect folks’ right to protest. … We also have to balance that with the need to protect safety.

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