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A Win for Freedom of Speech and Occupy Nashville

Hedy Weinberg,
ACLU of Tennessee
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November 1, 2011

Yesterday the ACLU of Tennessee filed a federal lawsuit to protect the First Amendment rights of Occupy Nashville protesters. By late afternoon, a judge ordered the state to stop enforcing rules that violated the demonstrators’ freedom of speech and assembly.

The demonstrators have been gathered peacefully at the plaza in front of Nashville’s statehouse to express their frustration since October 7. Historically, other groups have been permitted to gather at the plaza without a permit. But last week, the state adopted new rules significantly restricting use of the plaza, requiring a permit and liability insurance, and imposing a curfew by fiat in secret and without notice.

The police did not equally apply the new restrictions, arresting protesters while ignoring people attending performances at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. The state cannot arbitrarily create restrictive policies just because it does not like how people are using a public space.

We went to court to tell the state it can’t change the rules in the middle of the game, and that it should be safeguarding public political expression, not thwarting it. We’re glad the judge agreed.

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