A Richland County judge’s restraining order will allow Occupy Columbia protesters to stay on the Statehouse lawn 24 hours a day.
Last week, Governor Nikki Haley issued an executive order saying protesters were not allowed to stay on the grounds past 6pm. Officers from the state’s Bureau of Protective Services then arrested 19 protesters later that night.
Lawyers representing the Occupy members filed an injunction in court, while protesters returned Monday night to test security again.
No arrests occurred Monday, as Department of Public Safety director Leroy Smith told reporters the “99 Percenters” would be allowed to stay on the grounds as long as they did not use sleeping bags.
On Wednesday, administrative judge Allison Lee of the court of common pleas issued a temporary restraining order against the governor. The order means public safety officers cannot take any action at least until another hearing on the case December 1.
In her order, Lee said the protesters were also allowed to set up tents on the property. “(Occupy Columbia) will suffer immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage to their fundamental constitutional rights of free speech and assembly (without the restraining order) before notice can be served and a hearing had on this matter.”
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the governor was not happy with the ruling, “You have a group that lived on the grounds for 33 days, destroyed public property, used the Statehouse flower beds as a toilet, and now a judge says, ‘forget the rules, forget their actions, and by the way bring your tent. It’s unacceptable, and we will fight it every step of the way.”
Occupy protesters have also filed a lawsuit charging that Haley and DPS officers violated the First Amendment by ordering the arrests.