The court case against an Occupy Charleston member who was arrested in connection with the brief occupation of Marion Square in November has been dropped by a municipal judge, according to his attorney.
After the first night of occupation began on Nov. 21, police arrived at the downtown public space around 2 a.m. on Nov. 22 to tell the protesters to clear out. They ultimately decided to allow the occupation to continue for the remainder of the night, but they warned the occupiers that they would be arrested if they stayed for the next night. Nine occupiers were arrested the following night when they defied a police order to vacate the park, but a tenth was arrested in broad daylight on the 22nd, before the second night of occupation ever began.
That occupier, Justin Honea, was arrested outside his home, where he says he was about to shower and dress in preparation for speaking to Charleston City Council that night. He was charged with "prohibited activities in park." Honea's case was dismissed this morning by Municipal Judge Michael Molony, according to Attorney William J. Hamilton, who argued in a Dec. 1 hearing that it was "disturbing that a citizen was told he could do something and apparently the city changed their minds."
Honea issued the following statement through Hamilton:
I am happy no further punitive measures will be sought against me. I am not happy this matter was handled in the way it was. Free speech and peaceful assembly are everyone’s Constitutional rights. After having been jailed for exercising these rights with some fine fellow Charlestonians, I now have significantly less faith in many of our local systems.
As an anthropology and sociology student, I know every functional society must have at its core a sound, civic forum for the consideration of the issues which challenge it. The Roman Forum, fire circle of an African village, or traditional American Town Square provided a continuous discussion of ideas and values in a space connected with the community. We should be working to bring more people together in our shared spaces and expand dialogue, not criminalize those attempting to revive civil discourse in our increasingly alienated and disconnected society.
All Americans need to join a discussion about how our economy and power is being used. We must consider the increasing concentration of wealth and influence into the hands of a small minority whose everyday experience is unconnected with the lives of 99% of the people working and raising families today.
I sincerely hope that something positive can come from this, that perspective can be gained, and that in the future everyone involved can strive to do better.
Hamilton, who has worked closely with Occupy Charleston since its inception last fall, says two other Occupy Charleston cases remain set for trial later in the year.