Judge says Occupy Columbia can stay
Wed, 14 Dec 2011 18:11:40 GMT —
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH, AP) -- A federal judge says Occupy Columbia protesters can stay on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds 24-hours a day, at least until new rules are put in place.
U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie ruled Wednesday that the protesters can use sleeping bags and tents as they continue their occupation of the grounds.
"When the ruling came down, I was ecstatic," said protester Diane Bruce Fleming.
However, Judge Currie says lawmakers could write legal restrictions to prevent or regulate such activity.
"Essentially what she said about the movement is that it will continue, there is the probability for them to make content neutral laws for them to define what they want to happen on State House grounds," said Mark Schnee, the attorney for the Occupy movement.
Judge Currie noted there are no valid restrictions in place now concerning Statehouse grounds. Currie noted the Budget and Control Board told a federal court in 1989 that it was working on such rules, but never implemented them.
Seven of the 19 protesters arrested Nov. 16 for trespassing on Statehouse grounds sued Gov. Nikki Haley and other state officials saying their First Amendment rights had been violated.
Governor Haley's office responded to the ruling following Wednesday's hearing.
We respect the judge saying that we need to clarify our rules, but, as the governor has said, we will not allow anyone to turn the Statehouse into an unsanitary campground, said Haley spokesman Rod Godfrey in a statement.
What do you think? Do you agree with the judge's ruling that the Occupy demonstrators can continue to camp out on Statehouse grounds? Leave a comment below and tell us your opinion.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)