Occupiers deliver tent as "special present" to Gov. Haley

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A day after a federal judge's ruling banned Occupy Columbia protesters from camping and sleeping on State House grounds, members of the movement packed up and marched to the Governor's Mansion to hand-deliver a Christmas gift to Gov. Nikki Haley.

It was a tent emblazoned with mottos from the months-long protest.

The governor's office told the protestors' attorneys that the group had until 2:00 p.m. Friday to comply with the new rule to disband their camp.

U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie on Thursday said her earlier injunction against removing the Occupy Columbia protesters is trumped by a new rule prohibiting living on the grounds.

State attorneys had asked her to change her previous order. She said that is unnecessary.

Currie also denied protesters' request to block the new rule from taking effect.

The Budget and Control Board on Tuesday unanimously approved emergency regulations banning camping and sleeping on State House grounds.

"The court found that the regulation adopted by the Control Board is a reasonable time place and manner of restriction and therefore its consistent with the first amendment," said Gov. Nikki Haley's attorney, Butch Bowers.

Currie said her order blocking the removal of protesters was issued because the state had no valid regulations on camping and sleeping. She says the new rule means her injunction is no longer in effect.

According to Occupy Columbia's legal team, the governor's office said they have until 2:00 p.m. on Friday to remove their tents from the State House grounds.

The emergency regulations will only stand for 90 days.  After that, the General Assembly would have to pass legislation.

Until then, there could be a gap that the governor's attorneys are examining.

"I will tell you that one option would be for the General Assembly to enact a statute sometime within the first 3 months that they're in session," said Bowers. "That would resolve the issue and make sure there is no gap in time."

Attorneys for Occupy Columbia say regardless of the future, Thursday's ruling changes the face of the protest.

"The occupation will not be the same," said Reynolds Blankenship. "It won't be an occupation."

"As Ghandi said, 'First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,'" said protester Barry Knight. "I think shutting down all these occupations across the country just proves that we're on step three and we're getting closer to winning."

"Even if there are not tents here and I don't sleep here, we're not going anywhere," said protester Melissa Harmon. "We're going to continue to maintain a presence here. I wouldn't be surprised if you were to see tents pop up somewhere else at some point."

"We don't know what the next step will be, but there will be a next step," Blankenship said.

Related stories:

"Occupy Columbia" protestors granted 15 extra days

Occupy Columbia protestors to take case to federal court

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