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Judge tells Tennessee to stop arresting Occupy protesters

By Joe Sutton, CNN
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Tue November 1, 2011
Police in Nashville, Tennessee, take an Occupy protester into custody on Monday.
Police in Nashville, Tennessee, take an Occupy protester into custody on Monday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A judge issues a temporary restraining order, blocking enforcement of new curfew
  • Protesters had been arrested for violating time restriction
  • Demonstrators across the country are protesting what they consider corporate greed

(CNN) -- A judge told Tennessee officials on Monday to stop enforcing new rules that have been used to arrest Occupy protesters in Nashville.

The decision was a victory for the fledgling movement and for the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, which sought a temporary restraining order to block a curfew put in place last week.

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger issued the order, which state officials did not fight.

"Political expression deserves the highest level of protection and it was unacceptable for the state to suddenly shut down protesters' speech and forcibly oust them from Legislative Plaza that has long been used as a place for peaceful expression," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director at the ACLU of Tennessee.

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"The state conceded that the temporary restraining order should be issued and we hope that this is the first step (that) the state is recommitting itself to safeguarding -- not thwarting -- public political expression," she added.

Efforts by CNN to reach officials in the state attorney general's office were not successful.

The order will remain in effect for 21 days. A hearing in the case is scheduled for November 21.

Demonstrators across the country are protesting what they consider to be corporate greed and corruption as part of the weeks-long "Occupy" movement. Many say the nation's wealthiest 1% hold inordinate sway over the remaining 99% of the population.

In Tennessee, protesters have gathered at Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville since early October.

Authorities issued the new rules on Thursday, requiring protesters to have permits and restricting the times they would be allowed to gather.

In subsequent days, protesters were arrested, including more than two dozen overnight Saturday, after they defied the curfew imposed by the state's governor. Most received citations for trespassing, while two others were cited for public intoxication.

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