Fourteen Occupy Columbia protesters will receive $192,000 from the State of South Carolina after settling a 2011 lawsuit against Gov. Nikki Haley and the state police.
According to The State, the settlement came about on Wednesday after nearly eight hours of negotiations in federal court.
“For me, this was never about the money,” Walid Hakim told The State. “This was about doing the right thing. Our first and fourth amendment rights were violated and the courts sided with us over and over again.” Hakim was one of the suit’s plaintiffs.
The Occupy Columbia protesters were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement that took over Zuccotti Park in New York City The main issues raised by Occupy Wall Street were social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government—particularly from the financial services sector. The Occupy Wall Street occupation of Zuccotti Park ended on Nov. 15, 2011 after protesters were forced to leave.
In South Carolina, the Occupy protesters filed this lawsuit saying their civil rights were violated when they were arrested on Nov. 16, 2011 for protesting peacefully on State House grounds. The S.C. Bureau of Protective Services officers arrested 19 protesters after they refused to follow Gov. Haley’s orders to leave. The charges were later dropped.
A Haley spokesman told the State that the governor did not support the settlement.
“Governor Haley made the right call to stop a group of people’s attempt to live on the State House grounds and use our flower beds as a toilet – they presented a clear danger to public health and safety,” Doug Mayer wrote in an e-mail to The State.
The Occupy Columbia movement considered Wednesday’s settlement a victory for free speech and for constitutional protection against unwarranted arrests, Hakim said.
“I hope future leaders of our state realize we have protections in place for a reason,” Hakim said. “They don’t have to agree with us, but they have to protect our right to say it.”
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