The Tennessee Highway Patrol took a novel approach to suppress demonstrations in Nashville,Tn. recently. Over 50 protesters were charged with trespass during protests. Someone put digital signs and paper signs out according to news reports which stated no trespassing. What is trespassing ?

A person commits trespass if the person enters the property or remains on the property without the owners consent. See T.C.A. 39-14-405 Consent may be inferred in the case of property  that is used for commercial   activity  available  to the general public or in the case of other property when the owner has communicated the owner’s intent that the property be pen to the general public.

There are defenses to the crime of trespass in Tennessee.

  • A person entered or remained on property that the person reasonably believed to be property for which the owner’s consent to enter had been granted.
  • The person’s conduct did not interfere with the owner’s use of the property.
  • The person immediately left the premises upon request.

Here, the sidewalk in front of the state capital have been used for protests for years. The Legislative Plaza has been a gathering spot for protests. People regularly visit the state capital as well as sit in the gallery when the Tennessee State Legislature is in session. Doesn’t the citizens of Tennessee all retain some right to congregate on state property to exercise their fundamental right under the First Amendment to “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances “.

By the news accounts that I have seen, the protests were peaceful. I wonder who ordered the arrests.