COLUMBIA — Melissa Harmon, a bald-headed young woman with numbers scrolled all over her arms in black Sharpie, sat underneath the Confederate flag at the South Carolina Statehouse, chanting "Who do you work for? Who do you serve," as troopers arrested her and about 20 others today.
Harmon cut back her working hours as a take-out delivery woman to join Occupy Columbia for the last 33 days until the protest was ended on Gov. Nikki Haley's orders at 6 p.m.
The protesters were hauled away in plastic and metal handcuffs to a corridor under the Statehouse, where they lined a hallway and sang "God Bless America" as troopers from the Bureau of Protective Services made multiple trips in the heavy rain and wind to the Confederate monument to make more arrests.
Harmon, of Columbia, said earlier tonight that she was prepared to be arrested because the country isn't going in the direction she thinks is right.
It was her first time being arrested. She said she wrote the numbers on her arms so she could call someone to pick her up at the police station.
"This is my voice," she said. "People would like to think that democracy happens at the ballot box. It doesn't. This is where it happens."
Harmon said as a trooper was escorting her off to the Statehouse basement that she wasn't told why she was being arrested.
Earlier today, Leroy Smith, Haley's director of the Department of Public Safety, said the Occupiers would be arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct, if necessary. The arrests were peaceful.
It was not immediately clear the last time a Statehouse protest ended in arrest.
Until today, law enforcement had reported no incidents involving the Occupy protesters.
As troopers began making the arrests, the bulk of the 70-some protesters backed off the Statehouse grounds to a sidewalk across the street. They disbanded shortly after the final arrest.
Haley said she was asking the protesters to leave as a matter of respect. She told them to come back Thursday with their signs, but to leave their mattresses at home.
The protesters had brought sleeping bags, coolers and mattresses and covered it all with blue tarps. Most of the items were removed before the 6 p.m. deadline.