Reported by Tripp Girardeau
Occupy Columbia protesters called for a rally of supporters Saturday at the Statehouse to remind lawmakers and the public that they are still active. The event was on a Saturday however, when the downtown is quiet and most lawmakers are gone.
After a federal court battle with Governor Nikki Haley that led to occupiers being legally banned from camping or sleeping on the Statehouse grounds, the group pulled up its tents and is trying a new approach.
The gathering involved members of the movement from all over the state. The event organizers called the occasion “Critical Mass, ” and attracted about 40 by midday. The Progressive Network and the AFL-CIO publicized the rally, offering their endorsements.
Throughout the day, the group held poetry readings, a midday march, and a “crime scene theatre” in which the group held yellow crime scene tape all around the Statehouse.
Columbia Occupier Melissa Harmon says the Critical Mass was to let government know they are still present and still have a voice.
“It’s the people who have the power here. It’s not the money, it’s not the lobbyists,” says Harmon. “If we all just come together we can make a difference.”
Bradley Powell, another member of Occupy Columbia, says having events like the “Critical Mass” give the group another way to convey their messages to the people.
“People have forgotten they have a voice in this state, or in this country in general,” says Powell. “We are trying to give that back to them, or let them realize they never lost it to begin with.”
The Occupy movement as a whole has no official leader or spokesperson and the objectives of the group can vary with each member. The concerns of protesters center on the role of corporate money in government and improving the general public’s access to decision makers.
Yet, Occupy Columbia shows no signs of ending their efforts anytime soon. Recently, key members have been attending GOP primary events and questioning candidates at town hall meetings.