Arrests made in Occupy Columbia protest

Published: Nov. 17, 2011 at 12:24 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2011 at 12:25 AM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - At least 15 protesters from the Occupy Columbia movement have been arrested following an order from Gov. Nikki Haley for the protesters to leave the State House grounds by 6:00pm.

Flanked by multiple security personnel and new DPS chief Leroy Smith at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the governor claimed protesters were urinating in bushes and ruining shrubbery. The governor said the movement has cost the state $17,000 so far, and would cost $70,000 if they remain until February.

"I do not appreciate mattresses on the grounds," Haley posted on Facebook as the arrests began around 6:20pm.

Carrying signs bearing slogans such as "Get corporate money out of politics" and "Money buys -- it does not speak," at least 15 protesters sat beneath the Confederate monument and linked arms as they waited for DPS officers to arrest them.

Occupy Columbia members tweeted around 7:00pm that 23 people had been put into zip-tie handcuffs and led away. No incidents of violence have been reported.

In her press conference hours before police shut down the encampment, Gov. Haley said the protesters are welcome to return during daylight hours -- but will have to go through the Budget and Control Board and submit an application for permission to demonstrate. At least 20 Occupy Columbia members peacefully protested Haley's announcement Wednesday afternoon.

The governor's move comes after the Republican leader of South Carolina's Senate said protesters who have been camping out at the State House represent a public health threat.

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler of Gaffney asked Gov. Nikki Haley on Wednesday to have the Budget and Control Board deal with the protesters and their tables and sleeping bags around the grounds.

Peeler voiced his concern as the state's Christmas tree was being erected in front of the State House where a handful of protesters have been camping out for about a month.

The governor has said unions are funding the Occupy Wall Street movement to make Americans think corporations are the "bad guys."

The governor's Carolighting ceremony is planned for November 28 at the State House. The 45th annual ceremony kicks off the holiday season in Columbia.

Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.