Rybak and Occupy protesters will meet over police response

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 9, 2012 - 11:48 PM

Activists said the mayor should be accountable for police actions.

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Protesters occupied the lobby of Mayor R.T. Rybak’s office before Liz Dahl, left front, and Ben Egerman, right, met with the mayor’s staff.

Photo: Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

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Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will meet with protesters from the Occupy movement on Tuesday, after they jammed his office lobby on Monday to complain about their treatment by police over the weekend.

Police Chief Tim Dolan acknowledged on Monday that the protesters had been sent mixed messages last week about the legality of pitching tents in Peavey Plaza, and he also questioned an officer's rough handling of a TV cameraman.

On Saturday, police ordered protesters to take down their tents and later arrested 12 of them for obstructing traffic.

About 75 people rallied outside City Hall on Monday, denouncing Rybak for the police action. Then they marched into his office lobby, saying they would not leave until he met with them.

Rybak was not there and his staff ordered them to leave, but they refused. Eventually his staff met with two protest leaders and they arranged for a meeting between Rybak and the Occupy group at City Hall at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Occupy activists announced last week that they were resuming their protests with the pitching of tents to blast Wall Street and the disparities between the rich and everyone else.

Sgt. Steve McCarty, a police spokesman, said last week that police would allow the tents to stay up overnight at Peavey Plaza but would not allow people to sleep in them.

Dolan said he was not apprised of that decision and said it was made by officers at lower ranks. "That direction should not have been given," he said.

He said he met with the protesters on Peavey Plaza on Saturday, telling them to take down the tents and citing a public nuisance statute that prohibits obstruction of a public right of way. "Tents are an obstruction in themselves," he said. "That was public property. If we allowed people to tent in the city, we would have all sorts of people tenting in the city."

On Saturday night, protesters took to the streets of downtown and 12 were arrested. Dolan said some used their bicycles to block patrol cars.

Chad Nelson, a KSTP-TV photographer, was videotaping the arrests when an officer shoved his camera, knocking it to the ground and slightly injuring the cameraman. Dolan said the department's internal affairs unit was looking into it.

Dolan said that "I cannot see any logical reason or why that cameraman was interfered with by the police officer ... It will be thoroughly reviewed. We specifically instructed all our people to not take individual actions out there. If that is what it was, I am very disappointed."

Asked what role Rybak had in the decision to order the tents removed, Jeremy Hanson Willis, Rybak's chief of staff, said the mayor "was aware that they [the police] were enforcing the city ordinance." He said Rybak had no role in the decision to arrest protesters.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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