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…