NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - Twenty-six protesters against U.S. economic conditions were taken into custody in Nashville early on Saturday, the second consecutive day that police swept through their campground to enforce a curfew.
The 72 troopers moved in at 12:10 a.m. local time, ordering the protesters to vacate the campsite. Those who refused to leave were taken to jail where state troopers gave them misdemeanor citations for trespassing.
But also for the second day in a row, Night Court Commissioner Thomas Nelson told state troopers that there were no grounds for charging the protesters.
Friday morning, 29 protesters were dragged from the campsite they had occupied for about three weeks and taken to jail, and Nelson said then there was no cause to book them.
The 10 p.m. local time curfew, supported by Republican Governor Bill Haslam, was imposed Thursday as a way to clear the Legislative Plaza at the foot of the State Capitol and other nearby state property being used as a campsite.
Friday morning the Night Court commissioner told troopers that the protesters had not been given enough time to vacate the property after the curfew was imposed. Saturday morning he questioned whether any such curfew was legal.
But the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security disagreed, with its spokeswoman Dalya Qualls saying that troopers had “enforced revised state policy that makes the Legislative Plaza, War Memorial Courtyard, and Capitol grounds areas closed to the public from 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. daily. The revised policy also states there shall be no overnight occupancy of state properties.”
One protester also was charged with public intoxication.
The protests in Nashville are part of the so-called “Occupy Wall Street” movement, which began in New York City last month to protest economic disparities, high unemployment and government bailouts of major banks.
It has spread to cities around the country and overseas. Several cities have become impatient with the protesters camping out in public areas and a few have tried to evicted them, including Atlanta and Oakland, California.
The demonstrations have been peaceful except for a confrontation with police in Oakland on Tuesday which left an ex-Marine badly injured.
Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune