Nine members of Occupy Charleston who were temporarily banned from Marion Square have been allowed back in the park — but they still can't camp out there.
In a special motion session at Charleston municipal court this morning, Judge Joseph Mendelsohn amended the terms of the occupiers' personal recognizance bond. They had been arrested around midnight on Nov. 23 for staying in the downtown park after hours, and at their bond hearing they were ordered not to enter the park until after their court hearing on Jan. 3.
Christopher Inglese, a member of the movement who acted as the arrestees' lawyer, says he worked with city officials to formulate a compromise that would let the protesters back into the park, where the group had originally planned to stage an ongoing occupation. Now, the occupiers are allowed back in the park, but they are not allowed to congregate during permitted events such as Holiday Magic or the Farmers Market. And they still have to leave every night when the park closes at 11 p.m.
Speaking to Inglese and three occupiers who showed up for the 8:30 a.m. hearing, Judge Mendelsohn expressed concern "that our beautiful city could become open for New York City's park and things like that."
"I think they are setting themselves up for scrutiny," Mendelsohn told Inglese. "You should have a serious conversation with these folks about what the standards are going to be."
Among the 10 occupiers mentioned in the bond modification is Justin Honea, who was arrested separately during daylight hours on Nov. 22. Attorney William J. Hamilton has asked that Honea's case be dismissed. In a sworn affidavit, Honea says he was arrested after the fact for staying in Marion Square on the night of Nov. 21, when police showed up to the park but gave protesters the go-ahead to stay for one night.
"I find it disturbing that a citizen was told he could do something and apparently the city changed their minds," Hamilton says. Honea's bond terms did not stipulate that he couldn't re-enter the park, but Inglese says he included Honea as a 10th name on the order for clarity's sake.
An 11th occupier, Brandon Fish, was not included in the bond modification. He is represented by a separate lawyer who will seek similar action.
As a side note, Fish and his sister, Gilah, were the only two protesters present at Michele Bachmann's presidential stump speech on the Yorktown on Aug. 19, long before Occupy Charleston members organized a well-publicized disruption of Bachmann's foreign policy speech on the Yorktown on Nov. 10. Back in August, the two stood at the back of the crowd and held up signs reading "Sane Americans Against Michele Bachmann" and "Pray the Bachmann Away."