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Home  |  News  |  Occupy Columbia protestors praise police treatment

Occupy Columbia protestors praise police treatment
Tuesday, October 18, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Protesters who rallied outside the South Carolina Statehouse generally agreed Monday that the nation's political and economic systems are in need of change, but want it known that their ideas for exacting change differ. And they prefer it that way.

"I'm not looking for a bumper sticker. This is too big for that," said Melissa Harmon, who joined the Occupy Columbia protest on Saturday after working a double shift. "For me, it's the movement. I think we have the potential to do amazing things."

Her specific issue is that corporate executives' pay be limited to no more than 40 times the salary of their lowest-paid employee. Others' state-specific issues included more money for education, eliminating tax exemptions to fund social programs and requiring electronic voting machines that leave a paper trail.

Harmon carried a sign reading, "Wake up, Speak up, Join us!"

And for Parker Goldsborough, that's the ultimate goal - getting people involved and educated. In some respects, the movement has already won, he said, by bringing together people of different backgrounds.

"I want people to vote. I want people to use their rights. I don't want them to feel powerless," said Goldsborough, of Columbia, who plays bass in a punk band. He was among roughly 30 protesters Monday.

Emily McCravy said she came with her children - ages 3, 7 and 3 months - to teach them that if they're not happy about something, they should exercise their rights. Her husband, Matt Kipp, said he's thrilled to participate in a movement that's not linked to any specific political issue.

"It's about a much wider idea," he said. "I think there's a deep sense of betrayal among the American people right now. ... It's about getting the corruption out of politics."

That frustration, he said, started with the federal bailout of banks, and grew as the banks gave their executives huge bonuses. Then there was the Supreme Court decision giving corporations more political power.

He and his family were among those protesting since Saturday, when about 150 people gathered. While they went home every night, others slept on the grass in sleeping bags.

In their twice daily meetings, demonstrators echoed each other in what was described as a human loudspeaker.

Goldsborough said protesters have come and gone as their schedule allows. He and others praised South Carolina law enforcement for treating them well. Goldsborough said he helped organize Occupy Columbia after watching video of police and Occupy Wall Street protesters clashing in New York.

"This is South Carolina, after all," he said. "I fully expected dudes in SWAT gear."

Instead, he said he's been pleasantly surprised by the communication so far. He said one officer even asked a man to leave who showed up in the wee hours to harass them.

Sprinklers were turned off so those sleeping outside over the last two nights wouldn't get wet, said Tim Liszewski, 52, an organizer who serves as the group's liaison with state officials.

He was still seeking permission Monday to set up tents, since rain is in the forecast Tuesday.

In North Carolina, 20 people were arrested over the weekend and charged with trespassing after refusing to leave after their demonstration was scheduled to end. Similar arrests were made in other states.

There's no law against being on South Carolina's Statehouse grounds 24 hours a day, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Sid Gaulden.

But while Occupy Columbia protesters can roll out their sleeping bags overnight, they can't put in stakes that would damage the grounds. Tents have been temporarily allowed for an hours-long protest or rally, but putting up something semi-permanent for an indefinite period of time is prohibited, Gaulden said.

The agency "is trying to work with the folks, but you have to keep in mind that Statehouse grounds aren't campgrounds," he said. As for whether that would lead to arrests, he added, "We'll cross the tent bridge if it comes to that."

Whether the expected rains will disperse the group is unclear. Some demonstrators pledge to remain whether they have shelter or not.

Source: http://www.thestate.com/2011/10/17/2013237/occupy-columbia-protestors-praise.html

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