Nashville journalist arrested at Occupy protest [Updated]

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Update (4:10 p.m.) from the Scene and the Tennessean: The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee and a federal judge has just issued a restraining order barring state police from making any further arrests for the curfew violation.

Meanwhile, Gov. Haslam's Facebook page, where Team Haslam staff members (presumably) post a lot of innocuous "news" items about the beauty of Tennessee's bears, is getting hate-bombed by Occupy Nashville supporters.

Nashville Scene reporter Jonathan Meador was arrested on Friday night, along with a group of Occupy Nashville protesters, for violating a newly imposed curfew at the Occupy Nashville site.

Background: Last week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (son of Pilot gas station chain founder "Big" Jim Haslam of Knoxville, Tenn.) imposed a brand new 10 p.m. curfew on Legislative Plaza, a park just outside of the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville and site of the Occupy Nashville campground. Haslam declared the curfew last Thursday, and despite initially telling media that protesters would be given a full day (that is, until 10 p.m. Friday) to comply, state troopers moved in on the plaza late Thursday night/early Friday morning. On Friday, a judge ordered the state to drop its charges against that first round of arrestees. And here's where things take a turn for the truly absurd, or in the language of Tennessee politics, "perfectly normal": Haslam on Friday warned that troopers would again arrest protesters for violating the highly controversial new curfew.

(More after the jump.)

So Meador, ahem, a member of the press, went to the park that night to see what would happen and, I guess, exercise his constitutional right and write about it in the newspaper for the benefit of the public and the health of democracy, or something.

But that wasn't in the cards. Instead, Meador got an even better story — his own arrest. An arrest that happened after (1) telling a police officer that he intended to obey the curfew and leave the park and (2) telling the officer he was a journalist, neither of which seemed to bother him.

Meador was slammed to the ground, informed that he would be charged with resisting arrest, then taken into custody. In case anyone doubts that account, here's the video Meador took:


(According to this report, another reporter, Steven Hale, asked the troopers if they were really going to arrest a journalist. The reply: "You want to be next?" Were I Hale, my follow-up question might have been something about whether these now quite famous troopers know exactly what it is journalists do for a living.)

Did anyone hear that cop say anything about public intoxication? No? Well, no matter, because that's what Meador's actually been charged with, not resisting and certainly not trespassing after curfew. (According to reports in Nashville media, Meador was never breathalyzed nor given a blood test.) In fact, nobody arrested on Friday was charged with violating the curfew. Why? Because a judge has declared there was absolutely no legal basis for imposing it.

The CEO of Southcomm, the Scene's parent company has demanded an apology for the arrest. Meanwhile, the story and Meador's video are making the rounds today.

For the best continuing coverage, follow Scene editor Jim Ridley and senior writer Jeff Woods on the paper's news blog "Pith in the Wind" and reporter Steven Hale at Scene sister publication the City Paper and @iamstevenhale on Twitter.

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