No one from Occupy Minnesota was arrested overnight on the Hennepin County Government Center plaza, despite a new rule that went into effect Monday night by the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners.
The new rule barred protesters from sleeping overnight on the plaza, but allows them to be there if they are not asleep. One Occupy organizer, Osha Karow, told me he estimated that 50 protesters stayed overnight, and some were sleeping, including himself. The overnight occupy movement on the plaza began Oct. 7 in solidarity with anti-Wall Street protests in New York and Chicago.
In New York City last night, police moved in Zuccotti Park and cleared out protesters, arresting 200 and detaining some journalists.
“I question why they didn’t enforce it, when they said they were going to enforce it,” Karow said. He said and the others were prepared to be arrested, or at least, issued trespass notices.
Asked why no arrests were made or trespass notices issued, David Hough, acting county administrator, said, "We are continuing to monitor the situation" and "see how it progresses." He said the protesters had "made progress" by removing personal property from the plaza, including removing portable toilets and signs. He said 76 people slept on the northwest corner of the plaza on Monday night. "We are not going to interfere with their First Amendment right to protest," he said. Hough is in charge while Administrator Richard Johnson is on vacation.
Sleeping on the Government Center plaza is not a criminal violation, only a rule violation. So if the county decides to enforce the rule, they would have to “trespass” a person, ordering them to leave the plaza and not return. If the person refused to leave the plaza after they were trespassed, the sheriff’s office could be called in to make an arrest.
Asked why there were no arrests on Monday night, Sheriff Rich Stanek reiterated that it was a rule violation, not a violation of the law. “It is up to the county board to enforce it [the rule],” he said. Asked why the county did not enforce it, he said, “ I don’t know.”
Carolyn Marinan, a spokeswoman for the county, said she did not know either. “We have been working with them,” she said, referring to the protesters. “We want to get to a place where we can resolve this peacefully and adhere to our policy” that prohibits sleeping on the plaza.
It looks a little bit like a cat and mouse game. Karow said he is preparing for the possibility that the county may start issuing trespass notices later in the week, when there may be fewer people sleeping overnight on the plaza.
He said, however, that if authorities start issuing trespass notices in the middle of the night, supporters will be immediately called and more people will turn out to support the protesters.