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Tennessee agrees to stop arresting Occupy protesters

» ASSOCIATED PRESS

Nashville, Tenn. — Tennessee officials agreed Monday, Oct. 31, to stop enforcing a new curfew used to dislodge Occupy Nashville protesters from the grounds around the Capitol.

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

State Attorney General’s Office Senior Counsel Bill Marett announced at the beginning of a hearing before Judge Aleta Trauger that the state would not fight efforts to halt the policy.

The judge said she had already decided to grant the restraining order because the curfew was a “clear prior restraint on free speech rights.”

“I can’t think of a more quintessential public forum than Legislative Plaza,” Trauger said.

State troopers used the curfew put into place on Thursday to arrest 29 protesters early Friday and 26 people early Saturday.

Both times a Nashville magistrate refused to jail the protesters, saying the state didn’t have probable cause to arrest them. They were released with citations.

The Nashville protesters are part of the six-week-old Occupy movement, which began in lower Manhattan to decry corporate influence in government and wealth inequality.

“This is a huge victory for us because Gov. Haslam has realized the mistake that he made,” Occupy Nashville protester Steve Reiter said.

The two sides have until Nov. 21 to reach an agreement or go back to court for a hearing on a preliminary injunction. TAS

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