On Monday, members of the protest group Occupy Charleston asked the City of Charleston for permission to camp out in Marion Square indefinitely. They haven't gotten an answer yet.
The group sent out a press release addressed "To the People of Charleston" that explained some of the reasons for the request:
We do not seek to tear down our system, we seek only to improve it, and sustain the vision of our Founding Fathers, of a Nation governed by the People and for the People. As a nation, we all treasure the rights we are given as citizens. One of our most treasured rights is the first amendment to our constitution, which guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This is a right we seek to exercise in a public, visible, location in Downtown Charleston, large enough to accommodate our group. The public space which best fulfills these requirements is Marion Square.
The press release also described some of the group's general motives:
While there has been extensive media coverage of the Occupy movement, we would like to clarify the goals of Occupy Charleston. We are a non-partisan group of concerned Charleston residents hoping to engage the community in a dialogue about universal issues affecting our community and our country. Some of our goals include holding those corporations accountable for their contribution to our economic downturn, removing corporate campaign contributions from the political arena, and combating the growing economic inequalities in our country. We believe that as long as our government officials are influenced by legitimized bribery, the voices of the 99% of our country, who cannot afford to hire lobbyists or make campaign contributions, are silenced.
Occupy Charleston sent a formal request to the Mayor's Office on Monday, asking permission to start camping in the downtown green space as soon as possible. The request mentioned that local merchants "will be the primary beneficiaries of an occupation" and added that the group's members did not agree with "the City Code that restricts a peaceful assembly of the people in the manner of an ongoing occupation."
Chris Inglese, a city employee whose name was among those listed at the bottom of the request, said on Friday that he had not received a response. He said the group decided on Marion Square as an occupation site at a meeting last Thursday, the rationale being that protest activities should "occur in the heart of the city in a public space, near the center of financial activities." He said the square is an ideal location for marches, education events, and outreach.
Inglese estimated the movement has about 1,000 members by now and said that the act of camping out would send a message. "The willingness to stay overnight is a statement in and of itself about the degree to which the working class is struggling and feels like it's been duped by the banking industry," he said.
In mid-October, Occupy Charleston protesters got the city's blessing for a 99-hour combination sit-in/camp-out/teach-in at the less heavily trafficked Brittlebank Park. The event was planned as a show of solidarity with the worldwide movement. Turnout was thin, with the number of news reporters sometimes approaching the number of protesters. The group has also staged demonstrations at local banks and picketed at the peninsula end of the Ashley River Bridge.
Members gained the national media spotlight briefly on Thursday when they upstaged Michele Bachmann's foreign policy speech at the USS Yorktown by shouting a litany of complaints against her in unison.
"You capitalize on dividing Americans," they shouted, "claiming people that disagree with you are unpatriotic socialists. And you promote discrimination." Meanwhile, the GOP presidential contender's supporters jeered at the interlopers to sit down. Bachmann called the protest, which was staged the day before Veterans' Day, "disrespectful" of veterans.