A Minneapolis demonstration planned for Friday in solidarity with New York City's Wall Street occupation already has a Minnesota Nice flavor.
Organizers who plan to "occupy" the Hennepin County Government Center plaza got permission to stay there 24 hours a day, as long as they obey the law. Protesters also want a designated smoking area and additional bike racks, among other amenities. They had two cordial meetings Thursday, one with Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and another with Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan and John Stiles, an aide to Mayor R.T. Rybak.
"They're nice people," Stanek said of the protest representatives.
"We feel that both the Sheriff's Department and Police Department are working with us, not against us," said Osha Karow, one of the activists who initiated the Minneapolis protest. The target of the protest is Wall Street and big banks and corporations, whom the demonstrators blame for the country's economic woes.
But at Thursday's meetings the protesters had more immediate concerns. Government Plaza is a nonsmoking area, and the protesters want a place to light up.
They also asked for permission to put up tents. Stanek said in an interview that the department was not enamored of the idea but would get back to them on it.
Most significantly, the protesters will not have to file for permits to sleep on the plaza.
Dolan said he plans a "soft approach" to the protests, with a few police officers stationed near the plaza along with portable surveillance cameras. "We're not going to have [officers] massed up around the site," he said. The group told him they plan to have their own security volunteers and will ask protesters to sign agreements to stay nonviolent.
The organizers say they expect there will be marches from the plaza onto city streets. Dolan said he'll deal with those protests as they occur.
Said Stanek: "They've got a mission, we've got a job to do. ... As long as we keep the lines of communication open, we'll be fine."