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Occupy Minneapolis puts up 40 tents on People’s Plaza, cops carry out late night raid

By Kim DeFranco |
December 3, 2011
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Snow falls on Nov. 29 Occupy Minneapolis encampment.
Snow falls on Nov. 29 Occupy Minneapolis encampment. (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Linden Gawboy, of Mn Coalition for a Poeple's Bailout speaking at Occupy MN.
Cop filming Occupy Minneapolis protest.
Linden Gawboy, of Mn Coalition for a Poeple's Bailout speaking at Occupy MN. (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Cop filming Occupy Minneapolis protest. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Minneapolis, MN – More than 400 protesters gathered on People’s Plaza here, Nov. 29, defying the anti-free speech rules imposed by county government. While state Representative Karen Clark spoke to the rally, activists set up 40 tents on the Plaza.

According to Sam Richards, who has been occupying The People’s Plaza since Oct. 7, "To keep the occupiers safe and healthy through the winter we can no longer rely on Hennepin County. They, in the name of public safety, have declared a ban on tents. This is ludicrous and we are taking matters in our own hands."

Occupiers are committed to maintaining the protest through the winter but have come up against a brick wall of opposition and harassment from county officials, who singled out the Occupy protest by passing a new policy of “no tents” and “no sleeping” on the plaza.

Among the speakers at the rally were Michelle Sommers, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005; Cliff Poehler, Treasurer of AFSCME Council 5; Linden Gawboy of the Minnesota Coalition for a People’s Bailout; Angel Buechner of the Welfare Rights Committee, City Council member Cam Gordon and Stephanie Taylor of Students for a Democratic Society.

Angel Buechner told the crowd “These kinds of ‘no shelter’ and ‘no camping’ policies exist to be used against homeless and poor people. Now they’re being used against the Occupy movement to stifle our freedom of assembly because we stand up against the 1% of rich people that dominate the politics and economy of this country. Everyone has the right to shelter and the right to protest.”

Dozens of people slept in the tents and many more stood guard outside throughout the night. At 4:15 a.m., about 50 cops from the Hennepin County Sherriff’s department, along with Hennepin County security guards, marched onto the plaza and surrounded the tents and protesters.

The sheriffs dragged more than 40 protesters out of their tents. While one tent was torn down, a protester would hop into a nearby tent. The cops went to each tent, shaking and pulling on them while the people stood their ground. The reaction of the cops was to pull, drag and throw people out. They even hauled off all the kiddy tents.

Fifty Occupiers, including the people in the tents chanted, “Whose plaza? Our plaza!” “We are the 99%! We occupy; we represent!”

After marching in mass behind the truck that carried away the survival gear, Occupy Minneapolis regrouped and made a plan. With new tents in hand, they marched across the street to City Hall and pitched tents anew. They decorated the Hubert H. Humphrey statue with the ‘anonymous’ mask and Occupy signs. They covered the new tents with signs and greeted early morning commuters exiting the light rail train.

Around 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 30, the Minneapolis Police Department arrived and ordered the tents be taken off city property. Calls were made to Mayor R.T. Ryback’s office to demand that he order the police to allow the tents to stay, that there be no eviction the occupiers.

A press conference was organized, but moments later the Minneapolis Police Department stormed in and yanked the tents away. Two protesters were arrested.

Activists from Occupy Minneapolis vow they are staying. “You can take our tents but you can’t take away an idea!” stated one protester.

The People’s Plaza in Minneapolis has been occupied since Oct. 7 in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. The occupiers are united behind the theme of “people before profits.”