NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Occupy Nashville protesters said Thursday that they're prepared to be arrested and plan to go into custody peacefully if they are.
About 30 of them have been camped out in a northeast corner of the Legislative Plaza across the street from the state Capitol for about three weeks. Several tents were set up around a fountain, and a table contained food and coffee for the protesters who weathered dropping temperatures and rain.
Protesters said they have been told by state officials that they have until 8 p.m. Thursday to leave the premises or they will be arrested. The governor's office had no immediate comment.
Protester Albert Rankin told The Associated Press they plan to allow the arrests with "no hostility whatsoever."
He said the group wants to avoid recent incidents like those in Oakland, Calif., where an Iraq war veteran suffered a fractured skull in a scuffle with police, and in Atlanta where SWAT teams arrested protesters.
"We always remain peaceful here," said the 25-year-old, who has been unemployed for a little more than a year. "If we can get enough flower donations, we're going to give flowers to the police as they come to arrest us."
Like other demonstrators across the country, Rankin and the other protesters are airing grievances against the government, weeks after the Occupy Wall Street movement began protests in New York.
"The corporations have a lot of control over our government these days," Rankin said. "The wage differential between CEOs of companies and their employees is astronomical, when you compare it to the rest of the world."
Scott Akers, who has also been out of work more than a year, was a truck driver for about eight years. The 42-year-old agreed corporations have too much control and said he's ready to be arrested to show his disdain.
"We're going to stand our ground," he said. "We're not here because we want to just hang out. We're here for a reason, a cause and a movement."
Rankin acknowledged the inclement weather has hampered some of the group's efforts, such as live Internet streaming. He said the group plans to move the camp, not so much because of the weather, but to protect their belongings in case they're arrested.
"For a lot of the people out here ... what they have in their tents is all that they own," he said.
There have been other occupy efforts in Tennessee. Peaceful demonstrations have been held in Knoxville, Memphis and Johnson City.
However, police have in the past had to forcefully remove protesters from the Legislative Plaza in Nashville.
In March, seven protesters were arrested after refusing to leave a Senate Commerce Committee meeting. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said at the time that he supports the right to protest, but that he agrees with removing demonstrators from government buildings if they disrupt official business.
In 2006, police arrested more than 100 disabled people for refusing to move their wheelchairs from intersections around the state Capitol. The protest over the lack of options for disabled care outside of nursing homes sparked outrage among several lawmakers and legislative staffers who were prevented from driving away from the Capitol after work.
State officials in 2005 denied delivery of extra food and drinks to protesters who staged a 77-day sit-in at the Capitol to denounce cuts to the state's TennCare program.
The TennCare protesters operated in shifts, and troopers said they were allowed to bring in small amounts of water and food.
And about a decade ago, anti-income tax protesters were a common sight inside and around the state Capitol, as they circled the legislative office complex honking their car horns.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)