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SC Governor Tries Again To Shut Down Occupy Columbia Camp


Occupy Columbia protesters on the SC statehouse grounds. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and a panel of state leaders met in a special meeting Tuesday and created an emergency regulation to boot campers from the statehouse grounds. The rule is aimed at about a dozen Occupy Columbia protesters who have been spending the night on statehouse grounds for the last two months. U.S. District Judge Cameron Currie ruled last week the state has no regulation prohibiting camping on state grounds - and that a policy by the governor's office wasn't enough to make the protesters pack up their tents. So, Governor Haley declared the campers a public health hazard and convened a meeting of the state's Budget and Control Board to create an emergency regulation. "What this does is say, 'There is no camping on statehouse grounds,'" said Haley in explaining the new regulation to other board members. "There is no preparing of food on the statehouse grounds or anything that would imply camping on statehouse grounds. So enjoy your first amendment rights - that's what we want to continue to do, but we don't want this to be a campground for anyone, regardless of what their group affiliation is." The board - consisting of Haley, the state treasurer, comptroller general and two top lawmakers - passed the emergency "no camping" regulation unanimously. But protester Melissa Harmon insists she's not camping, she's occupying. "Camping is something you do as a recreation - you go hiking, you go fishing - but this is different," says Harmon. "We are here as a statement, it is part of what we're saying. We are here to occupy this space the same way that moneyed interests have occupied the statehouse." Harmon and several other protesters have filed a lawsuit claiming the ability to occupy the South Carolina statehouse grounds is part of their protected First Amendment right to free speech. Whether they can continue to camp until that lawsuit is heard, depends on what a judge says this week about the emergency prohibition state leaders have now created.