by Jim Ridley
UPDATE: Links to PDFs of the court documents have been added to the end of this post.
As expected over the weekend, Occupy Nashville protesters backed legally by the ACLU have launched a civil suit against Tennessee state officials [PDF], intending to halt the crackdowns by state troopers on Legislative Plaza that transpired in the early morning hours Friday and Saturday.
Named as defendants in the suit are Gov. Bill Haslam, Tennessee Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, and Tennessee Department of
Civil General Services Commissioner Steven G. Cates. Also listed as defendants are the as-yet unnamed Tennessee Highway Patrol officers ("Does 1-100") who participated in the arrests.
The suit, filed today by attorneys David Briley and Patrick Frogge in cooperation with the ACLU's Tricia Herzfeld in U.S. District Court, accuses the state of "abridg[ing] Plaintiffs' rights of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by Article 1, Section 19 of the Tennessee Constitution." It seeks a halt to the arrests through "declaratory and injunctive relief," return of any property seized during the raids, and monetary damages for the "unlawful detention" of the plaintiffs. A hearing is set for 3:30 this afternoon before Judge Aleta Trauger.
Among those plaintiffs is Malina Chavez Shannon, 34, a student journalist who went to Legislative Plaza late Friday night to photograph events. Evidently she never got that far. The suit alleges she was on the sidewalk abutting 6th Avenue North when she was detained and arrested by state troopers. Furthermore, it claims that Shannon — who, according to others arrested, was trying to protect her camera gear from being demolished in the arrest — was bound so tightly that her zipline cuffs had to be removed at the Metro jail by a nurse with surgical scissors.
Another plaintiff is Darria Janey Hudson, 23, a Vanderbilt divinity student and former Fisk University student minister. The suit points out that she has studied with the Rev. James Lawson, one of the heroes of the 1960 Nashville student sit-in movement that proved a catalyst of the civil rights movement. Now, as then, the eyes of the world are increasingly focused on Nashville.