About 19 members of Occupy Columbia were arrested at the Statehouse Wednesday night after they refused to honor a new 6 p.m. curfew announced by Governor Nikki Haley only two hours earlier. Watch her press conference.
“Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” chanted the protesters as they were taken away.
The protestors were peaceful. The remaining Occupy members who did not wish to go to jail stood along the Gervais Street sidewalk as the arrests occurred. Those who wished to stay gathered at the Confederate Soldiers’ Monument and waited. Officers from the Bureau of Protective Services twice warned the activists to get off the monument, before handcuffing those who stayed.
Maj. Leroy Smith, the state Department of Public Safety director, had earlier said they would be charged with trespassing.
“At night, we’re asking you not to be here,” Haley said at an earlier press conference, “If you want to come back at daylight tomorrow, we welcome you to come back. If you want to come back every day until February, you can.”
The Occupy movement had spent the previous 33 days on the front of the Statehouse lawn. Several members said they were conflicted about getting arrested, but many believed it was necessary to make a statement.
“I will stay here,” said Walid Hakim, who says he has spent the past month on the grounds. “I spent five years of my life in the Marine Corps. I can give a few days more to my country in this respect.”
Asked why she was cracking down on the impromptu camp now, Haley said the protests had cost the state more than $17,000 in overtime for protective services officers. She also said the protesters were trashing the property and had never gotten written permission to be on the lawn.
“We have mattresses on the grounds. We have toilet paper in the bushes. We have plants that have been messed up,” Haley said, “We have things that have been causing a problem in terms of the respect of the grounds of the Statehouse.”
Hakim disputed that, saying the protesters had been respectful. “We have a port-a-john that were donated by the Sierra Club,” he said shortly before his arrest, “To actually pin that on the Occupy movement is puzzling because we actually pick up our trash every day.”