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Stop Arresting Occupy Protestors, TN Judge Orders

Nashville Occupy protestors' arrests will stop, at least for now. A federal judge recently issued a temporary restraining order, forbidding new rules that imposed curfews and permits on Tennessee's Occupy protestors.

Dozens of protestors were arrested outside the state's Capitol last week.

Protestors had gathered on Legislative Plaza. The curfew requirements went into effect last Thursday, though many refused to leave the premises. Police arrested 55 protestors in two days last week.

The permit and curfew regulations were imposed by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam.

Unfortunately, the new rules were not constitutionally-friendly according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU filed suit, arguing that the curfew and permit requirements violated the protestors' right to free speech.

Typically, protestors' First Amendment rights are not absolute. Individuals can be limited by appropriate time, place and manner restrictions. So protestors may be limited in the number of hours they can stay in parks, and can be subject to certain safety conditions.

It sounds like the permit and curfew requirements could fall under one of the reasonably permissible categories of restriction of free speech.

However, it seems that the state might have made a procedural error. The ACLU argued that the state didn't follow the steps required by the Administrative
Procedures Act when implementing the policy, reports The Tennessean.

The judge agreed with the ACLU, even going so far as stating that he thought the new regulations were a "prior restraint" against free speech. Prior restraints are official government restrictions of speech before they are published or spoken and are usually forbidden.

Luckily for the Tennessee Occupy protestors, the state did not object to the ACLU's request for a temporary restraining order. The order will halt the Nashville Occupy arrests, and a hearing on the matter is scheduled for November 21.

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