The "Occupy Wall Street" protesters around the country have been gaining headlines for the increase in arrests that have occurred in recent weeks, making it appear to be a clash between the state (vis-a-vis police officers) and the people (as the OWS protesters hammer home the "we are the 99 percent" image).
However, in Albany earlier this week and also in Nashville just today, police officers and judges have been siding with the protesters against the will of their own colleagues, suggesting that the public debate brought on by OWS may be raging within the ranks of law enforcement as well.
Despite orders from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to enforce a curfew on the hundreds of OWS protesters camped out near the state capitol, police refused, citing the impracticality of arresting dozens of people for a technical trespassing charge, according to the Albany Times-Union.
"We don't have those resources, and these people were not causing trouble," a New York State police official said. "The bottom line is the police know policing, not the governor and not the mayor."
In addition, police officers said they did not want to damage its reputation with Albany residents. The crowd of OWS protesters was not simply made up of rebellious teenagers, but also included elderly people and parents with children.
"There was a lot of discussion about how it would look if we started pulling people away from their kids and arresting them ... and then what do we do with the children?" one officer said, the Albany Times-Union reported.
In addition, Albany County District Attorney David Soares said there was simply no need to use police force.
"Our official policy with peaceful protesters is that unless there is property damage or injuries to law enforcement, we don't prosecute people protesting," Soares said. "If law enforcement engaged in a pre-emptive strike and started arresting people I believe it would lead to calamitous results, and the people protesting so far are peaceful."
In Nashville on Friday, police officers went ahead with arrests, detaining OWS protesters in front of the city's Legislative Plaza, The Associated Press reported.
Nashville authorities took a similar approach that Albany's higher-ups attempted, which involved suddenly enacting new curfew laws on protesters. The AP reported that the new law banned "overnight occupancy" and required fees and permits for rallies.
WZTV reported that the new law was created by lawmakers the day before the police took action.
When police moved in at about 3 a.m., they arrested the protesters and took them into custody.
Katy Savage, one protester who was not arrested, expressed her disappointment.
"This was a group of brilliant, wonderful people that I had come to know as family, practicing democratic decision-making on public space. And for that they were dragged away in handcuffs," Savage said, according to the AP.
A Nashville judge might have sympathized with Savage. According to WZTV in Nashville, Commissioner Thomas Edward Nelson found "insufficient probable cause that a crime was committed" and ordered that the protesters be released immediately.
In addition, Nelson said that due to the fact the law had been created only hours before police enforced it, protesters had not been given sufficient notice because "14 hours is not enough time to comply with [the new laws]," WZTV reported.
The new law also says protesters are only allowed to occupy the plaza between the hours of 8 m.m. and 4 p.m. Whether or not the new law will be enforced remains to be seen, but WZTV reports that protesters plan on staying put.
As of Friday, Oct. 28, protesters in Albany have been allowed to protest past curfew.