Haslam: Curfew, arrests, necessary for safety

Haslam: Curfew, arrests, necessary for safety (Image 1)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Governor Bill Haslam said a curfew and the arrests of dozens of Occupy Nashville protesters was an attempt to make the grounds around the state Capitol safe.

“We set a curfew which we thought was reasonable, that being said, the only way to enforce a curfew is to do what we did,” Gov. Haslam told Nashville's News 2.

The Republican governor spoke a day after state officials agreed to stop enforcing the curfew.

The protesters went to federal court on Monday seeking a temporary restraining order against Haslam, arguing the curfew and arrests violated their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

State Attorney General's Office Senior Counsel Bill Marett announced at the beginning of Monday's hearing that the state would not fight efforts to halt the policy.

Haslam said Tuesday that the non-action was not an admittance of a mistake, but simply an agreement to a temporary restraining order.

The governor stands by his decision to set the curfew last Thursday due to concerns over safety and sanitary conditions at Legislative Plaza.

“This isn't about winning a legal argument; it really is about, a responsibility for safety. We had a condition on the plaza where multiple people came and said, we don't feel safe here. We have state workers saying we're cleaning up here every morning,” said Haslam.

The governor also voiced concerns over the lack of public restrooms at Legislative Plaza

Many people, like Casey Knott, who pass through Legislative Plaza during their work day agree with the governor.

“It [Legislative Plaza] was a whole lot prettier a couple of months ago, people kind of have ran it down, it doesn't look nice,” Knott told Nashville's News 2.

While some haven't noticed any additional garbage or crime, “aside from the camp that they've [Occupy Nashville protesters] set up in this corner, it seems to be about the same.”

However, those with the Occupy Nashville movement disagree with the governor, saying he's using safety and cleanliness as an excuse.

“The 'occupiers' are definitely very clean and safe people, we're actually a good thing to have on Legislative Plaza because we keep things safer,” Occupy Nashville demonstrator Eva Watler told Nashville's News 2, “we're activists, and we care about this country, this land so we're probably not going to be the issue so I think that's kind of a moot point.”

The temporary restraining order is in place until November 21st, when the two sides will meet back in court for the ACLU lawsuit filed on behalf of a small group of Occupy Nashville members.

*The Associated Press contributed to this story

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