A federal judge ruled in the Occupy Columbia protesters’ favor Wednesday, saying there are no written rules in place about overnight stays at the Statehouse.
Judge Cameron Currie upheld a restraining order against Haley and Department of Public Safety officials. Seven of the protesters arrested last month had filed the suit.
The governor prompted the state Department of Public Safety to arrest the protesters for staying on the Capitol grounds in tents past 6 p.m. After seven were arrested, Occupy sued.
The judge said the Budget & Control Board, which oversees the day-to-day maintenance of the Statehouse grounds, has had two months to clarify its policies about overnight stays on the grounds. But Currie said the agency has not done so.
In fact, she says the state was asked 22 years ago to draft definitive regulations and have not to date. In her ruling, Currie says the state is not restricted from applying an appropriate policy even now and the group must still abide by valid criminal and civil laws.
The protesters say they have taken great care not to disturb the grounds. However, the governor said there had been reports of “toilet paper in the bushes” and other damages when she ordered them off the property. Occupy leaders said their First Amendment rights were being violated.
In today’s ruling, Judge Currie said that as it stands now, Occupy’s constitutional argument would likely succeed on its merits.