What I saw at the revolution, such as it was

After the warning and before the arrests, these were the few chosen to be arrested, waiting as the rain began to fall.

There were about 100 apparent protesters milling about in the dark as the 6 p.m. deadline arrived. People in pools of harsh TV lights being interviewed, others talking on cellphones, others just waiting.

Walid Hakim was, as he has been, a center of attention. He told me — and maybe if I can get it uploaded, I’ll put up video later — that he had just learned that his great-great-great-great-great grandfather had owned the land on which the State House was located. So he said he was just hanging out on the family homestead, waiting to be arrested. He made dramatic statements about how the rights to speak and peaceably assembly that he had defended in the Marines were about to be denied him.

Brett Bursey was there, as he had been earlier in the day. “Do they take credit cards at the jail now?” he asked me. I said they certainly should, this being the 21st century and all. Then he slouched off to confer with others here and there. A few minutes later, I asked how many times he had been arrested, counting this time. He expressed doubt that he would get arrested, and acted a bit like he was being cheated. I didn’t really follow what he was saying was happening. Then he wandered off again.

The cops still hadn’t shown.

Walid and a dozen or 15 others grouped themselves around the Confederate soldier monument, with that “I’m going to be arrested” look in their eyes. At this point, I Tweeted out:

They’re so pumped up, chanting “WE. ARE. THE 99 PERCENT!” It would be rotten of Nikki not to arrest any of them. They’d feel so let down…

Eventually, some of the State House security guys showed up and announced that pursuant to the governor’s announcement, those who did not vacate would be arrested.

By then it had started drizzling. Walid and the other designated martyrs sat around the little fence enclosing the flagpole, and waited. My iPhone and camera started getting pretty wet. I went to stand under a tree. Didn’t help much.

Finally, the officers who had made the announcement came back out onto the grounds with reinforcements — maybe 20 uniformed officers. They formed a skirmish line, donning gloves, and started walking slowly toward Gervais.

I found myself walking backwards with the protesters who would NOT be arrested toward the sidewalk along the street. I realized the working media had stayed behind with those who were to be arrested. The police had simply walked past them, parting around them like a stream around a rock. I thought about standing on ceremony and demanding to be allowed back in with the other media, but a number of disconnected thoughts were running through my mind, such as:

  • I have no credentials, and this didn’t seem like a good moment, standing in the rain with everyone a little tense, to have a debate with the authorities about how I was, too still a member of the Fourth Estate, even though all I had to show was a bradwarthen.com business card. A damp one.
  • While I had bought the insurance on my iPhone, that meant I would “only” have to pay $175 to replace it if it were ruined by the rain.
  • My little Canon with which I was trying to shoot video was likely to suffer the same fate as the one before it, which was splashed by surf and never worked again. No one would reimburse me.
  • This was all moving WAY too slowly. At this rate, no one would get any cuffs before another half hour had passed.
  • What are the long-term effects of rain upon a silk bow tie?

What the line of cops wasn’t blocking, the media types still within the perimeter were. I couldn’t see what was going on with Walid and the rest.

I went ahead and crossed the street. As I did, I saw a group of protesters had gathered on the far side of Gervais under a blue tarp. I envied them their shelter as the wind suddenly picked up dramatically.

Then, it came down in buckets. I was entirely drenched by the time I made the door of 1201 Main.

I rode the elevator up, in my soaked blazer and black (formerly gray) pants and drooping bow tie and mop of thoroughly sopping hair. Everyone looked at me as though I were a lunatic. I got up to the Capital City Club and went to the bathroom to try to dry off some with the little terry cloth towels in there.

I went to a window to look back down at the scene I had left. I couldn’t see a thing. The TV lights seemed to be gone, even.

I went on into the Membership Committee meeting from which I was playing hooky. My appearance excited comment. One member asked me whether I was ignorant of the fact that there was an attached parking garage. I mumbled some explanations, sat down, and did my best to act normal.

Here’s a report from reporters who were paid to stay behind and witness the final tedious act of the drama:

Acting at the behest of Gov. Nikki Haley, S.C. Bureau of Protective Services troopers took 19 Occupy Columbia protesters in front of the State House into custody in a driving rainstorm around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Officers escorted small groups of those taken into custody back towards the State House. Officers placed band-type handcuffs behind their back. Protesters did not resist; there was no violence.

“At least you don’t have to be in rain now,” one officer said to a protester as he led a man. Protesters arrested included both men and women.

It was not known what, if any, charges those taken into custody will face.

Haley’s directive was aimed at keeping the demonstrators off State House grounds during the night. She apparently will not order state troopers to formally remove them during daylight hours.

“We the people shall never be defeated!” protesters chanted immediately before being detained…

And so forth…

21 thoughts on “What I saw at the revolution, such as it was

  1. Steven Davis

    “He told me — and maybe if I can get it uploaded, I’ll put up video later — that he had just learned that his great-great-great-great-great grandfather had owned the land on which the State House was located. ”

    I’ll put that up there with his “military service”. He probably can’t back either one up.

  2. tired old man

    Cribbed from comments on The State —

    “SECTION 10-11-350.
    Peaceful entry by general public upon grounds and capitol building.

    Nothing contained in this article shall prohibit the normal, peaceful entry of the general public upon the grounds or within the capitol building, subject only to laws or rules governing that portion of the grounds which may be entered and the hours during which the capitol building shall be open.”

    Read more: http://www.thestate.com/2011/11/16/2048688/state-senator-asks-haley-to-remove.html#disqus_thread#ixzz1dvOCbsQp

  3. Bryan Caskey

    Should have been done as soon as the first mattress, sleeping bag, or tent hit the ground.

    It’s the State Capital, not a campground.

    Our first amendment rights are subject to reasonable, content-neutral, time, place, manner restrictions.

  4. Steven Davis

    @tired – So you’re in agreement with the Occupy folks that they didn’t need to obtain a permit to assemble. Then why is every other group who wants to assemble at the Statehouse grounds required to obtain a permit?

    It was nice driving past there this morning and not seeing a sea of blue tarps.

    Maybe when they come back, they’ll have a purpose for being there rather than just to hang out and accomplishing nothing.

  5. `Kathryn Fenner

    Agreed with Bryan on the restrictions–“Our first amendment rights are subject to reasonable, content-neutral, time, place, manner restrictions.”

    but I repeat–does anyone think a Bible camp would have been shut down? A Tea Party encampment?

    I don’t think this is content-neutral. It’s anti-“Dirty Hippie”

  6. Steven Davis

    @Kathryn – “I don’t think this is content-neutral. It’s anti-”Dirty Hippie””

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  7. Brad

    We kept hearing Nikki repeatedly stress her support for, in her overworked phrase, “people that (sic) know the power of their voice.” She kept stressing that “there is nothing I love more.”

    And at times like that, I wonder — to what extent is that sincere? I suspect there’s a grain of it there, if only because her own self-concept is so tied up in the cliche, making the attitude a close relative of self-love.

    But that is always the question with Nikki: How much of that stuff does she really, truly believe, and how much of it is just stuff she has found works for her if she says it? And for Nikki Haley, is there a difference?

    There’s no way to know. I can’t know. And I doubt that Nikki can, either.

  8. Steven Davis

    What is the obsession with Bible camps on the State House grounds? And why would they congregate and squat in that location for 30 days without a permit?

    I believe the Tea Party had the approval and paperwork to be there.

    Do you really believe any party would be allowed to stay on the grounds 24/7 for 30 days? If anything the Occupy Columbia squatters were disruptive to other organizations that went through the proper channels to use that area.

    Can anyone tell me what the Occupy Columbia group actually accomplished in those 30+ days?

  9. tired old man

    @Steven Not sure at all if EVERY group is required to have permit to assemble on the State House grounds. Since I used to have an office there and have organized quite a few events, I think I can safely say that assembling people there is not an anal process with triplicate forms etc. People show up, hold pressers inside or on the steps, take tours, spread out blankets and sun, eat lunch on the benches, eat and drink and enjoy a piece of land that is commonly owned.

    second, @steven, it seems that most of the groups I have witnessed over the years absolutely epitomize the goals loosely expressed in your words of having been there “just to hang out and accomplishing nothing.”

    This Occupy Columbia thing was something that would have naturally dissipated and withered away over time. This wasn’t a 100 yard dash, rather it was a series of marathons that sap energy and enthusiasm and are open to seduction from a host of rival commitments.

    Haley is a pop-in-jay, who leaped lustily upon Donahue’s forgery of a letter from Senator Peeler as excuse to join a national series of hostile actions towards the Occupy folks.

    Some people and comments are focused entirely on the faces of the Occupy people. They are missing the message, which is that a rich minority are no longer content with just the money, but now feel that wealth AND rights and dignity belong solely to them.

    Our governor, who had little wealth but a bit of legislative power, has a track record of disregarding such basic obligations as timely paying taxes and transparently reporting income.

    Now she lives in the big house and has big britches. She reminds me very much of General Bullmoose, the richest denizen of Al Capps’ Dogpatch — who, sitting in his palatial splendor, was irritated to find that the hill of Dogpatch cast a shadow over his breakfast plate. So he arrogantly and confidently decided that Dogpatch (not his soft-boiled egg) must move.

    As an aside, and in conclusion, i find it interesting that numbers of the Republican religious fundamentalists apparently believe that their faith and their material success equate to them righteousness. Even though the beginnings of their religion was very much concerned with those in society who had the least — because in the eyes of God all were equal.

  10. Brad

    I understand there’s something going on over at USC right now, a protest of some sort in connection with this. I hope it’s not significant, because I just can’t get away from the office today. Yesterday really put me behind.

  11. Steven Davis

    Hell Brad, you just delete my posts and I have to reword them to get them approved. Maybe you can just edit what I say the first time.

  12. Steven Davis

    @Tired – Well I’m sure whatever Occupy Columbia will be long remembered… well at least until the football game on Saturday. I doubt whatever they accomplished was worth the fine and permanent police record they now have.

  13. kc

    Well, I wasn’t going to occupy anything, but now that our gov has decided to have people dragged to jail just for exercising their First Amendment rights, I may have to show up this weekend just to protest her action.

    Btw, didn’t she give a speech at a gathering of tea b – er, partiers at the Capitol recently? Did they apply for a permit?

  14. j

    Tired, you’re right on. Steven just likes to make his emotional comments and is upset at wise and reasoned observations. He probably was represented by Nikki in Lex Cty and probably voted for her for Gov.

  15. Steven Davis

    kc – I believe the Tea Party did have the required paperwork and permissions to assemble.

    Next question.

    j – Show me a “wise and reasoned observation” and I’ll give you my true opinion. As far as your probabilities, you are half correct. She wasn’t my representative, but I did vote for her… just to spite Brads man-crush with Sheheen.

  16. j

    Steven, your admission that you voted for Haley shows that your political perception is exceeded only by your poor judgment.

  17. tired old man


    “whatever they accomplished”

    For one thing, they obtained a reaction by the governor of the state of SC. People spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions and for lobbyists for similar attention and less results.

    Second, the governor has hastily ventured into quasi-legal territory in PRESUMING she has powers more properly shared by the other four members of the Budget and Control Board — and the elected senators and representatives of our Legislature. We imagine Treasurer Curtis Loftis ought to have more to say about this, unless he folds his tents and just sulks like Achilles before the gates of Troy.

    Third, the Occupy Columbia people have reaffirmed the importance of our First Amendment rights. Those rights belong to me, you, and to Brad, and to everyone who comments intelligently and collegially. It does not matter whether are toilet habits are in accordance.

    Fourth, Haley’s irresponsible and politically impetuous actions have emphasized the issues presented by Occupy Columbia — i.e., that a financially and politically powerful minority are oppressing the fortunes of a struggling minority.

    Fifth, they have shown how unimpressive the Haley administration is in terms of political maturity and inability to cope with issues — other than with bromides, platitudes, and — now — raw, naked police power.

    Sixth, kudos to the men and women of law enforcement who acted with professional and personal courtesy to enforce an immature, politically unwise and self-aggrandizing knee-jerk decision of Nikki Haley (helped by Wesley Donahue serving as Senator Harvey Peeler’s letter writer and Rep. Rick Quinn’s unproven urination assertations that Haley scatologically turned into toilet paper).

    All this said, let’s be honest — Nikki Haley cannot afford too many of these type situations.

    And that, Steven, may be “whatever” the Occupy Columbia movement accomplished.

    A good day’s work — or several weeks work — whatever.

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