COLUMBIA — The chief of security at South Carolina’s Statehouse complex says an Occupy Columbia protester has been arrested for defecating on the grounds. But officers have said they couldn’t remember when the arrest occurred, and the state’s public safety agency as of Tuesday had yet to produce an incident report.
Public urination and “toilet paper in the bushes” was one reason given by Gov. Nikki Haley on Nov. 16 when she ordered Occupy Columbia protesters off Statehouse grounds by 6 p.m.
Neither Haley’s office nor the Department of Public Safety has provided documentation or video of the grounds under heavy surveillance to back that up.
But Bureau of Protective Services Chief Zackary Wise told reporters Monday night that officers did arrest someone for defecating on the grounds at some point since the protest began in October.
“It was someone actually arrested for defecating on the grounds, we have seen it and then we also arrested someone for that,” Wise said, adding that he would have to check on the date the arrest occurred.
The comment represented the first mention of any protester being arrested prior to last week’s 19 arrests for trespassing after the governor imposed a 6 p.m. curfew, after which Haley said anyone attempting to camp out on Statehouse grounds would be arrested by the Bureau of Protective Services.
“At night, we can’t protect you. At night, I can’t ask the taxpayers to protect you. At night we’re asking you not to be here. So from 6 o’clock until daylight tomorrow, we’re going to have everybody leave. If you want to come back at daylight tomorrow, we welcome you to come back. If you want to come back every day until February, you can. But after the hours of 6’clock, if you are here, you will be removed,” Haley said during a Nov. 16 news conference.
More protesters prepared to be arrested Monday night in defiance of that order but declared victory after a post-curfew demonstration resulted in no arrests. The director of South Carolina’s public safety agency called last week’s 6 p.m. order to leave the grounds a misunderstanding, and at the end of Monday’s protest, Haley’s office put out a statement.
“The governor loves when people find the power of their voice, and Occupy Columbia is no exception. They are welcome — as is any citizen — on the Statehouse grounds, but we have been clear: the Statehouse is not an unsanitary campground,” said her spokesman, Rob Godfrey. “They can’t sleep there. They can’t live there. And they can’t destroy public property.”
During the Nov. 16 news conference, Haley also said the protesters had cost the state more than $17,000 to pay officers’ overtime costs and erect lights on stands to deter people from using shrubbery as bathrooms. According to the Budget and Control Board, the agency that oversees and maintains the Statehouse grounds spent $4,361 on halogen light stands but had not needed to spend any extra money to clean up the grounds, according to Board spokeswoman Lindsey Kremlick.
Other cost breakdowns for officers’ pay have not been made available.
Protesters were sparse at the Statehouse during the day Tuesday, with a lone individual spotted there late morning. Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said Monday that protesters can stay on the grounds indefinitely, as long as they don’t camp out with sleeping bags and food tables.
Seanna Adcox contributed to this report.