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12 ticketed in 2nd week of Statehouse protests

COLUMBIA (AP) — Twelve people were written tickets as protesters angry at South Carolina’s decision to reject federal money to expand Medicaid blocked an entrance to the Statehouse garage for a second week.

This week, Columbia Police were much more organized for the Truthful Tuesday protesters. Immediately after 11 protesters stepped off the curb and on to the road leading to the garage, an officer told anyone planning to get a ticket to walk over to the steps of a building on the capitol grounds. The demonstration itself lasted less than 15 seconds, while it took nearly an hour to write the tickets for disorderly conduct.

The protesters were given a court date of March 28. They face up to a $100 fine or 30 days in jail.

A 12th person was written a ticket after using a car to block the way into the garage.

Unlike last week protests, no one was handcuffed, put into police cars and driven to the police station.

Nurse David Ball said he was nervous as he stood on the curb waiting to walk into the road. The U.S. Air Force reservist said he had never been arrested before.

“We’ve been holding signs for a long time,” Ball said. “But now it is time for law-abiding citizens to do something more to show they aren’t happy.”

The South Carolina Progressive Network has organized the Truthful Tuesday protests since the legislative session started in January. The primary purpose is to demonstrate against South Carolina’s decision not to accept federal money to expand Medicaid under the nation’s new health care law, although the group also wants to see the state spend more on education and other social programs.

Opponents of Medicaid expansion say there are better ways to get health care to poor people than accept federal money that may not always be there.

Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey was one of the people getting ticketed Tuesday. He said the group has not decided whether they will plead not guilty or no contest when their cases go to trial. But he said they plan to use their court date to speak out again.

Protesters again stepped off Statehouse grounds to make their point. A state law passed in the 1960s allows judges to sentence anyone convicted of demonstrating inside the capitol to up to three years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Bursey said the demonstrators aren’t ready to challenge that law yet.

Bursey said more arrests are coming too.

“Same time, next week,” he said smiling, as he waited to get his ticket.

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