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Tenn. to stop arresting Occupy protesters

Tennessee agreed Monday to stop enforcing a new curfew used to dislodge Occupy Nashville protesters from the grounds around the state Capitol.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Tennessee agreed Monday to stop enforcing a new curfew used to dislodge Occupy Nashville protesters from the grounds around the state Capitol.

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

The "Occupy" movement, which began six weeks ago in lower Manhattan to decry corporate influence in government and wealth inequality, has spread to cities large and small across the U.S. and around the world. Demonstrators have spent weeks camped out in parks, wearing the patience of city officials — even those who have expressed some level of support for their cause.

Tennessee 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 curfew policy.

Trauger said she had already decided to grant the restraining order because the curfew was a "clear prior restraint on free speech rights."

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. It has spread to cities large and small across the country and around the world.

Marett said his office will meet with the plaintiffs to come to an agreement on health and safety issues.

The suit says Haslam approved the new curfew after complaints over three misdemeanor violations — "an assault, public urination and an apparent tryst beneath a magnolia tree" — around the plaza where the protesters have been camped out since Oct. 6.

In Richmond, Virginia, early Monday, police cleared out a plaza that had been home to Occupy Wall Street protesters, ordering out dozens of people who had encamped there since Oct. 17 and arresting those who refused to leave.

Officers began clearing the park in Richmond around 1 a.m. and most of the protesters left when told to and some who stayed were arrested for trespassing, police spokesman Gene Lepley said. Police said later that nine people were cited or arrested.

The occupation had blossomed into a tent city, with dozens scattered around Kanawha Plaza in the city's financial district. The site also included a library, a volleyball net and a large blue tarp strung up on three magnolia trees.

One of the protesters, Ira Birch, said the park was surrounded by a "huge line of cops" and police cruisers with their blue lights flashing. An officer read ordinances that the protesters were violating and told people to gather up their possessions and leave. She described the scene as "pretty peaceful."

Some of the latest developments in the Occupy protests:

The roommate of an Iraq War veteran seriously injured in a clash with police during an anti-Wall Street protest says Scott Olsen is doing well and doctors say he'll make a full recovery. Keith Shannon served with the 24-year-old former Marine in Iraq.

Shannon tells The Associated Press that he visited Olsen at a medical facility Sunday and says Olsen still can't talk. Olsen suffered a fractured skull and other head injuries during the clash in Oakland. Police are investigating how Olsen was struck by a projectile.

In New York City, an Occupy Wall Street demonstrator videotaped in a police altercation met with prosecutors Monday to discuss the incident. Felix Rivera-Pitre wants prosecutors to bring assault charges against Deputy Inspector Johnny Cardona. Attorney Ronald Kuby said prosecutors indicated the investigation would continue for a few weeks.

Demonstrators are trying to trademark the phrase "Occupy Wall Street." Leaders of the protesters in lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park filed an application Oct. 24 to trademark the name of their movement with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, one of their attorneys said Monday. The filing was a defensive move to make sure other people not affiliated with Occupy Wall Street don't try to use the name, he said. An Arizona-based company and a couple from West Islip, N.Y., also have filed Occupy Wall Street trademark applications.

Upstate, two Occupy Rochester protesters were ticketed Monday for violating city ordinances at a park where 32 demonstrators were rounded up on trespassing charges three nights earlier.
Those were the first arrests in upstate New York's major cities among supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Mayor Thomas Richards said the arrests were designed to prevent confrontations over health and safety concerns that have emerged in other cities around the U.S.

Police say a man has been found dead inside his tent at a protest at a park in downtown Oklahoma City.

Police Lt. Kevin Barnes says the death isn't considered suspicious, but authorities have not determined how the man died. Barnes says someone called 911 about 2:40 p.m. Monday after he was found dead inside his tent at Kerr Park.

Protesters have been camped for several weeks at the park as part of an Occupy OKC event coordinated with similar Wall Street protests around the country.

Providence officials said they would not immediately begin legal proceedings against protesters who defied a weekend deadline to dismantle their tents and leave a public park. Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Pare said city lawyers are drawing up a complaint and consulting with a local attorney who has come forward on behalf of the protesters.

But Providence won't follow the actions of other cities where there have been widespread arrests and even clashes with police seeking to clear encampments, Mayor Angel Taveras said.

Police in Richmond cleared out a downtown plaza, ordering out dozens of people who had camped there since Oct. 17 and charging nine with trespassing or obstructing justice. Officers began clearing the park around 1 a.m. Monday, and most of the protesters left peacefully, said police spokesman Gene Lepley.

A bulldozer was called in to clear the plaza of trash, furniture and other items that piled up over two weeks.

Instructors at Seattle Community College are teaching protesters the science of legislative lobbying, as well as the arts of the protest sign and filming to document human rights violations. The classes are scheduled to be held in the plaza at Seattle Central Community College, where the protest is moving.

Graeme Knowles, the Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, says he is resigning following criticism over the church's handling of protests on its grounds. He said Monday that his position has become untenable as criticism of the cathedral has mounted in the press and public opinion.

His resignation leaves the cathedral without a leader and will delay a planned legal action to evict the protest camp.

Last week, Giles Fraser, a senior St. Paul's Cathedral priest who had welcomed the anti-capitalist demonstrators to camp outside the landmark, also resigned. He said he did so because he feared moves to evict the protesters could end in violence.