Occupy protests to resume Saturday

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 5, 2012 - 11:16 PM

Protesters plan tents in Peavey Plaza, where they can stay but can't sleep, and Loring Park, which closes at midnight.

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Occupy Minnesota protesters held a sleepover in November on the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza, challenging an order issued by the County Board that prohibits sleeping on the plaza.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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The Occupy movement faces different ground rules if it goes through with plans Saturday to pitch tents at two new sites in Minneapolis: Loring Park and Peavey Plaza.

Police say the demonstrators who show up Saturday can stay all night in Peavey Plaza and can put up tents but can't sleep in them. The park police, who patrol Loring Park, say no one can stay in the park overnight.

"By ordinance, parks close between midnight and 6 a.m., and that will be enforced," Minneapolis park police Sgt. Jason Ohotto said. "We are gathering intelligence and preparing."

In the fall, the anti-Wall Street protesters set up tents at the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza, but over a two-month period, county officials tightened the rules, limiting overnight camping. Sheriff's deputies removed tents in early December, which effectively shut down the protest.

It's not known yet whether the movement still has the fizz that spurred nationwide protests last fall, popularizing public antipathy toward Wall Street and the big banks and on issues such as income disparity and home foreclosures. Several Minneapolis protests in the fall drew about 500 demonstrators.

Ben Egerman, 25, an organizer with Occupy Minneapolis, said his group gave "a lot of thought" before choosing Loring Park and Peavey Plaza.

"We don't want to be in a position that we and other groups [faced] around the country where our fate rested on one location," he said. "This gives us more flexibility and the opportunity for more people to get involved and more actions to happen." Saturday's protests start at noon at both sites.

Scores were arrested in a protest in New York City last month, and the New York Times reported Sunday that while Occupy groups around the country were working to revive the movement, recent protests have not been as large. A national Occupy protest is scheduled May 1, and the Minneapolis group said it will participate.

Over the winter, Occupy activists organized several anti-foreclosure rallies and were able to keep Bobby Hull, an ex-Marine, from losing his south Minneapolis home.

Minneapolis police Sgt. Gary Nelson of the First Precinct said that the department wants to ensure that the Occupy activists are allowed their First Amendment rights to protest. He said the First Precinct will not be adding officers for Saturday's protests.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224 Twitter: @randyfurst

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