Today, however, and with support from other organizations and even the mayor, the group intends to challenge the governor’s orders.
Beginning at 6 p.m., Occupy Columbia will return to the grounds in front of the State House building.
The South Carolina Progressive Network is helping the event in promotion, and calling for its member organizations to aid the cause.
“We are urging citizens who believe that our First Amendment right to petition our government doesn’t end at sunset to join us at the State House from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” said Brett Bursey, director of ProNet.
“We will peacefully protest on the grounds, and are inviting legislators to join us in taking a stand for free speech in South Carolina.”
On Nov. 16 Haley held a press conference explaining her orders that Occupy Columbia vacate after dark. She was responding to complaints from state Sen. Harvey Peeler Jr. (R-Gaffney), who specified particular Code of Laws he thought to be in violation, she said. That night, participating members were arrested for refusing to comply with the governor’s orders.
The 23 were arrested by officers with the Bureau of Protective Services and the Dept. of Public Safety, however, and not by Columbia police.
In fact, Mayor Steve Benjamin said he denied request from the governor earlier that same day for city police to respond and arrest.
“It’s not been made clear to us or our lawyers or the chief of police that laws have been broken,” Benjamin said. “(W)e are not going to participate in what we perceive as being unjust arrests.”
Prior to this evening’s standoff demonstration, Occupy Columbia will visit the mayor’s office to offer formal thanks to Benjamin and city police for not honoring the governor’s request for aid, which they still find unjustified.
They’ll meet at the State House grounds at 4 p.m., march to Benjamin’s office at 4:30, and return to the capitol facility at 1100 Gervais St for 6 p.m.
ProNet says it received no reply from Haley, BPS or DPS when it contacted them multiple times last week for clarification on laws allegedly violated. “It’s my guess they don’t have a clue how to enforce an illegal order,” said Bursey, who believes the ‘round-the-clock demonstrations at the State House are protected under the First Amendment.
Backing Bursey’s claim, and with local relativity, too, is a 50-year-old court ruling, says ProNet co-chair Virginia Sanders.
In 1961, the U.S. Supreme Court over-ruled convictions of 187 African-American students who were arrested for a civil rights demonstration on the State House grounds.
The state violated the demonstrators’ rights of free speech, free assembly and freedom to petition, the Court ruled.
If BPS again orders Occupy Columbia’s exit this evening, those who do not comply could be arrested.
Last week, 23 protestors were peacefully cooperative when they were handcuffed and taken into the State House building for processing.
Occupy Columbia will offer livestream video of this evening’s event.