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Bill Aimed at Occupy Protesters Advances

Tenn. General Assembly
Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland, Tennessee, is the House sponsor of Legislation intended to dislodge Occupy protesters from Legislative Plaza.

NASHVILLE, Tenn (AP/WMOT) — A proposal that seeks to prevent Occupy Nashville protesters from staying overnight on the plaza next to the state Capitol advanced in the Tennessee General Assembly yesterday.

The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland was approved on a voice vote in the House Judiciary Subcommittee. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation would make it a misdemeanor to lay down, as the bill reads, "bedding for the purpose of sleeping." The proposal refers to items associated with camping, "including tents, portable toilets, sleeping bags, tarps, propane heaters, cooking equipment and generators."

Michael Custer was one of the protesters arrested back in October when Governor Haslam attempted to clear Occupy from the Plaza.

"The right to free speech is guaranteed in both the Constitution of the United States of American and the Constitution of the State of Tennessee, and to craft law that is clearly designed to attack a political group is an attempt to squash free speech...simple put."

The protesters have camped at the plaza since early October. There are about 60 or so tents on the plaza and at least two portable toilets nearby.