NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the State of Tennessee from enforcing a curfew that led to the arrest of Occupy Nashville protesters. Monday afternoon a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order.
That order stopped the Tennessee Highway Patrol from enforcing new policies enacted last week by the State.
Federal judge Aleta Trauger held a temporary restraining order hearing Monday afternoon. Before she had a chance to rule, the state's attorney Bill Marett said the state would voluntarily stop enforcing the new policy.
Even with the agreement, Judge Trauger outlined the reasons she was going to enact a temporary restraining order.
"That's not usual for a judge, but I think it was a pretty clear indication of how obvious the constitutional violations was and I think it's been obvious to everyone who lives here," said David Briley, the attorney working with the ACLU.
The 31-page lawsuit alleges the Governor violated the state Administrative Procedures Act when he issued a curfew on Legislative Plaza last week, a decision that led to the arrests of protesters, including a journalist.
Occupy Nashville v. Haslam seeks both injunctive relief and monetary damages. Monday, the governor responded the filing of the lawsuit.
"Obviously because we're being sued I can't comment a lot legally there, and that's there right and a judge will decide exactly what gets determined there," explained Governor Haslam.
The plaintiffs are named as Occupy Nashville, and six of the protesters arrested on Friday and Saturday.
The complaint names Governor Haslam, Department of Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons, and Department of General Services Commissioner Steven G. Cates as defendants. It also lists the 100 Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers who took part in the raid and arrests on Friday morning as unnamed defendants.
That is in contrast to Friday and Saturday mornings when troopers moved in and arrested some 50 people. However, Night Court Magistrate Tom Nelson refused to sign off on the arrest warrants, saying state officials have no authority to set the curfew.
The governor still contends the curfew at Legislative Plaza was needed for safety and health precautions.
"Our primary job is safety and security and we obviously thought there was some concerns there with some events that had happened. We had state workers who were being forced to come in a clean up human waste, and that's not what part of taxpayers dollars should be going to," the governor said.
Occupy Nashville said that the arrests have only made their movement stronger.
"The movement for Occupy Nashville has really turned into a First Amendment movement here in Nashville. And that's really rallied the troops and energized everybody and I think it will help our cause. Because the First Amendment movement has brought more people than we would have ever imagined," said Jason Steen.
A 10 p.m. curfew on the Legislative Plaza was only instituted on Thursday, after protesters had already camped there for about three weeks.
The protesters are now free to congregate on the plaza until November 21, 2011. That is when both parties will go back to federal court, to see if they can reach an agreement, or if the judges needs to extend the temporary restraining order.