Members of Occupy Charleston are in Marion Square tonight, despite a meeting earlier today where Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. told them they could not occupy the privately owned park.
The protesters sent a letter to the mayor's office Nov. 7 notifying Riley of their intention to camp out and picket indefinitely in the downtown park, which is technically reserved for use by the Sumter Guards and the Washington Light Infantry militia group. Chris Inglese, one of three members who signed the letter, said today that he was disappointed in the outcome.
"We were told no occupation in any park throughout the city, and he referred us to the Special Event Committee," Inglese says. "Of course, our position is this isn't a special event. It's a demonstration. It's a First Amendment issue."
He says when members of Occupy Charleston offered to occupy a different park, Riley gunned down that idea too. Tonight, he says, protesters are stationed in the park, which officially closes at 11 p.m. At that point, we will see whether police enforce the rule and whether the protesters comply.
"That memo was actually less of a request for permission," Inglese says. "That memo was an announcement that Occupy Charleston has every intention to occupy Marion Square."
"I think the mayor's on the wrong side of history here," he added.
Inglese listed three components that he said were essential for a successful occupation: 1. an indefinite period of occupation, 2. the ability to assemble overnight, and 3. that the occupation occur in a location central to the city.
Occupy Columbia protesters and the S.C. Progressive Network also planned to camp out at the State House tonight in protest of Gov. Nikki Haley's crackdown on overnight camping there.