Occupy Nashville vs. GOP confrontation turns into love fest
That was essentially the vibe in Nashville on Thursday night, as a rare rash of love broke out across the political divide between Occupy Nashville protesters and a conservative counter-protesting group.
Jeff Woods, a writer with the Nashville Scene newspaper, reports that a "shouting, sign-waving band of Vanderbilt young Republicans" marched onto Nashville's downtown Legislative Plaza to stage a public response to the local iteration of the Occupy movement.
The Republicans were met with a chant of "We Love You!" from the Occupy Nashville crowd.
Woods observed that the Republicans were "undeterred by their warm welcome" at first, chanting, "Occupy the White House! Fire Obama!"
But minutes later, the goodwill reportedly caught on, and the scene began to resemble something like the famous World War I Christmas truce on the battlefields of Flanders.
Soon, Woods wrote, the Republicans "were smiling, shaking hands and chatting amiably with their fellow demonstrators at the opposite end of the ideological spectrum."
The Occupy crowd even turned the "people's mic" over to Stephen Siao, the head of the Republican group. Siao told the Occupiers that their demands were unrealistic, and that they would add to the national debt.
The Occupiers responded with their now well-known sign of disapproval: lowered hands and wiggling fingers.
The good vibes in Nashville stood in marked contrast to Wednesday's Occupy Oakland protest, in which police fired tear gas, and claimed that some protesters threw rocks, explosives, bottles and other objects at officers.
Several dozen people were arrested in Oakland, three protesters were hospitalized, and a number of officers received minor injuries. These and other clashes with police have been raising questions about their effect on public perceptions of the broader Occupy movement.
Anyone looking to Nashville as a harbinger of a Yoko Ono-ish shift in the collective national consciousness should be warned that the Tennessee capital prides itself on what might be termed extreme comity. Travel + Leisure magazine has named it America's Friendliest City at least three times.
Photo: Occupy Nashville protesters who were arrested last week at Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville hold up their citations after they were released from jail on Oct. 28. Twenty-nine Wall Street protesters in Nashville were issued misdemeanor citations for criminal trespassing after being arrested by state troopers overnight. Credit: John Partipilo/The Tennessean