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Regional & National

Occupy Nashville protesters deliver letter to Gov. Haslam's office

November 3rd, 2011 2:00 pm by LUCAS L. JOHNSON II

NASHVILLE (AP) — Members of Occupy Nashville delivered a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam on Thursday saying they want to collaborate with him "to achieve the best possible outcomes."

Four of the protesters walked to the governor's office Thursday morning. Protester Megan Riggs presented the letter to an office secretary after reading it out loud. Haslam was having a meeting in his interior office and didn't meet with the protesters, according to his spokesman.

Riggs told reporters after presenting the letter that "it was just a gesture of good will to communicate to him ... that we want to be good neighbors."

"We are not looking for trouble," said the 25-year-old. "We just want to draw attention to the corruption currently in government and we would like to change it."

The protesters went to federal court Monday seeking a temporary restraining order against the Republican governor, arguing a curfew and arrests violated their rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

State troopers used the curfew to arrest 29 protesters early Friday and 26 people early Saturday.

Both times a Nashville magistrate refused to jail the protesters, saying the state lacked probable cause to arrest them. They were released with citations.

A federal judge granted the restraining order, and the state has backed down on enforcing the curfew.

Haslam has said the state's decision not to fight was not an admission of a mistake, but simply an agreement to a temporary restraining order.

Occupy Nashville said in its letter to Haslam that they "plan on being here for a while," and intend to continue having peaceful, orderly assemblies on the Legislative Plaza across the street from the state Capitol.

"The plaza is a safe, clean and welcoming place as long as we work together to keep it that way," the letter said. "We would like to collaborate with your team to achieve the best possible outcomes. We're not interested in name-calling or slander. It does nobody any good and all it does is diminish the fine reputation of Nashville."

The letter also touted the nonviolent approach protesters have taken Nashville, unlike what's happened with some Occupy protests elsewhere. A protest this week that shut down the Port of Oakland ended in violence when police in riot gear arrested dozens of protesters who broke into a vacant building, shattered downtown windows, sprayed graffiti and set blazes along the way.

"We are also extremely proud, that during over 50 arrests having no probable cause, that there was not one act of violence or hostility on the part of our members," the letter said.

In Nashville, protester Tristan Call said a group of college Republicans from Vanderbilt University planned a Thursday evening counter-protest "because they're not happy with what Occupy Nashville is doing."

Call, a Vanderbilt graduate student, said he doesn't expect any problems and that his group will actually welcome the college students.

"But also, remind them, that as of a few days ago, their protest would have been considered an unlawful assembly and they too would have been arrested," he said.

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