The Daily Gamecock

Students march in support of 'Occupy Columbia'

Protestors join students, faculty on National Day of Action march back to the Statehouse


“Occupy Columbia” protesters joined students and faculty on a march through campus the day after police arrested 19 who remained on the Statehouse grounds after Gov. Nikki Haley’s 6 p.m. curfew. The march, organized by students on the two-month anniversary of the “Occupy Wall Street” protests in New York City, was both a response to Haley’s eviction of their fellow protesters and a celebration of the movement’s National Day of Action.

“We spread it, put it on the ‘Occupy’ Facebook wall,” fourth-year English and graphic design student Becca Dunn said. “It was primarily in support of [the arrested Columbia protesters] and in support of the national movement.”

Dunn said she and fellow students Aaron Nicholas and Delaney Mills had primarily organized the event.

“Aaron and I were talking about it, because after I got out of class [Wednesday] night, I saw a lot of my friends got arrested at the Statehouse,” Dunn said.

Though only two were Dunn’s close friends, she said she and her fellow protesters were frustrated by the fact the reasons for their arrest were “so illegitimate.”

Mills, a third-year anthropology student, said the students quickly rallied to pick up where those who were arrested left off.

“Becca and Aaron made the Facebook event last night after the arrests at the Statehouse,” Mills said. “I thought it was a great idea. I made phone calls and sent emails to ‘Occupy Columbia.’”

Mills printed about 100 fliers to hand out around campus.

“We went to public areas on campus and used the people’s mic (a call-and-response chanting method commonly used in the ‘Occupy’ protests) to get people’s attention,” Mills said.

What was once a protest against the government’s favored treatment of the top 1 percent of citizens seemed to have become a fight for constitutional rights; Mills said the eviction Wednesday night represented “free speech being squashed.”

As the crowd marched through campus on its way to the Statehouse, stops were made in front of the library, inside Russell House and outside Gambrell Hall.

All the while participants anxiously predicted what might happen at the Statehouse when 6 p.m. rolled around that night.

But despite the expectations of many, Thursday night ended peacefully.

“Let’s give these guys a break and go across the street,” one protester shouted as if granting a favor to the police, who at 6:07 p.m. were stationed on the Statehouse steps.

Several people decided to remain behind on the grounds, expecting arrest. But they ran no risk of arrest as long as they weren’t protesting, according to criminal defense attorney Tristan Shaffer, who was present in case one of his clients needed him.

“There isn’t a 6 p.m. law against being on the state grounds and just standing around talking,” Shaffer said. “[The police] know who is protesting and who to arrest. It’s selective enforcement of the law and it’s not right.”

Graduate library science student Scott West said the protesters have worked with Statehouse landscapers in order to assure the land is maintained, and called Haley’s accusation that toilet paper was left on the grounds “completely untrue.”

Shaffer agreed, saying Haley’s actions and reasoning were politically motivated.

“Nikki Haley and the Department of Public Safety have completely ignored constitutional rights,” Shaffer said. “There won’t be any basis for the arrests made last night.”

Protesters who had moved to the opposite side of Main Street continued to brandish their signs. One man held a poster board with “I have a job” written on it with a permanent marker.

“This sign says the direct opposite of what people have been saying to and about us,” Wayne Borders, a waiter and model said. “I do have a job. I have two, actually.”

Of the 300 cities that have been occupied in the past couple months, many have removed protesters from public property for health and sanitation concerns, rising crime, fire hazards and security deterioration.

Adre Smith, owner of a local heating and air-condition company, risked arrest by not leaving the grounds at 6 p.m., despite the cajoling of his friends.
“This infringement upon our rights is the new American epidemic, and it won’t be stood for,” Smith said.