Smaller turnout for Day 2 of protest

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 8, 2011 - 9:59 PM

About 300 people continued the OccupyMN demonstration Saturday in Minneapolis.

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Several dozen protestors gathered in a general assembly to talk about plans for the remainder of the event. A plan to hold another march to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis was discussed.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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Sara Wilcox is already planning for how she'll continue protesting outside the Hennepin County Government Center plaza in downtown Minneapolis when the snow flies.

"Is an igloo considered a tent?" she asked about the prohibition of tents or other structures. "We're here, people know we're here ... and we have no plans to leave."

It was Day Two Saturday of OccupyMN -- a protest echoing ones across the country that are condemning Wall Street corporate power and lobbyists' influence over government. About 300 sign-waving, drum-beating protesters filled the plaza by late afternoon after a smaller crowd started the day; dozens of people, including Wilcox, had spent the night sleeping on a grassy area nearby.

"I've never experienced anything like this before," said Wilcox, 28, of Minneapolis, who is unemployed after losing her job at a pet food company in June. "What exactly it will accomplish, I'm not sure. But being angry is getting people here, and we're moving in a direction where people feel represented."

Toting cardboard signs, flags and sleeping bags, the crowd ramped up by late afternoon as light-rail cars rolled by and a wedding party shot photos on an adjacent plaza. No arrests have been made so far, but Minneapolis and Metro Transit officers and Hennepin County sheriff's deputies kept close watch nearby.

It was a smaller turnout than Friday, which drew more than 500 people.

But 28-year-old David Puthoff of St. Paul said a dedicated group will keep the demonstration going.

"This is an alternative voice that goes beyond the polls," said Puthoff, carrying an orange sleeping bag after sleeping overnight near the plaza. "It has a lot of potential."

Puthoff moved to Minnesota from California in search of a job teaching English. With the recession, though, teaching jobs are scarce, and he found work instead as a security guard.

"It's been hard," he said. "I feel like I'm never going to be part of the middle class."

Saturday evening, speakers created poetry and led chants.

"It seems a little disorganized," said Drew Rankin, 26, a self-proclaimed socialist from the University of Minnesota, Morris who said he drove in with about a dozen fellow students in the campus DFL club.

He said he talked to a group about developing more coherence.

Throughout Saturday, organizers gave out free food and bottled water. Since power was turned off on the plaza, protesters installed two solar panels to generate their own power, aided by unemployed electricians Jon Burns of Minneapolis and Shawn Ulm of Princeton, Minn.

"I don't know if it's going to change the discourse in this whole dang country, but it only takes a few," said Ulm, walking the plaza with his two children.

The two unemployed electricians said they're taking classes while they look for work. The protest, Ulm said, will hopefully be more than just a place for disenfranchised citizens to vent their anger.

"I hope it wakes up [politicians]," he said. "If they think they're going to lose some of their electorate, they listen."

Staff writer Jim Adams contributed to this article.

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