Nashvile, Tenn. Occupy Wall Street protesters and state officials in Tennessee squared off for a third consecutive night Saturday, even though a local judge has consistently refused to jail the demonstrators.
The protesters have been galvanized by the friction between state officials and the local magistrate. Several new demonstrators showed up at the state-owned plaza near the Capitol for the first time earlier in the day.
Fifty to 75 people remained after the curfew that started at 10 p.m. and runs until 6 a.m. Police did not immediately move in. In previous nights, the defiance has led to arrests.
The Nashville arrests came after a week of police crackdowns nationwide on Occupy Wall Street activists, who have been protesting economic inequality and what they call corporate greed.
Clashes have occurred in other cities, including Oakland, Calif., Denver and Atlanta.
“My heart has been here all along, but the arrests gave me the momentum to come,” said Vicki Metzgar, 61, director of a Nashville Public Schools science and math initiative. “This (plaza) belongs to us, not the politicians.”
In Oakland, Calif., an Iraq War veteran was seriously injured during a protest clash with police Tuesday night. In Atlanta, helicopters hovered overhead Wednesday as officers in riot gear arrested more than 50 protesters at a downtown park. In San Diego, police arrested a similar number of people who occupied the Civic Center Plaza and Children’s Park for three weeks. And in Denver on Saturday evening, authorities moved into an encampment of protesters and began arresting demonstrators just hours after a standoff near the steps of the Colorado Capitol turned into a skirmish that ended in police force, including pepper spray and reports of rubber bullets.
Nashville magistrate Tom Nelson has said there’s no legal reason in his city to keep the demonstrators behind bars, and he has released them after each arrest. He has refused each night to sign off on arrest warrants for more than two dozen people taken into custody.
Some legal experts agreed with the judge.
The arrests appeared to be a violation of First Amendment rights that allow for people to peacefully assemble, said attorney David Raybin, a former prosecutor. He and others said the nature of the arrests, coupled with the judge’s refusal to sign off on the warrants, could become ammunition for lawsuits.