OccupyMN Gains Energy; Adds New People

The first day of OccupyMN rally at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis ended with bursts of energy and closed with with Minnesota’s first General Assembly of the Occupy movement. People wandered in and out all day. The crowd at 5:00 PM welcoming rally was 750 plus.

Minneapolis Mayor R T Rybak and 5th CD Congressman Keith Ellison were seen during the day. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek showed up about 6:00 PM inspecting his deputies who joined with Minneapolis Police to serve as an extensive but passive ring around the rally. Former US Senate candidate Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and a number of state legislators visited the rally. No political figures were invited to speak.

A rally/protest unlike any Minnesota has seen before

This day marked a vary different rally than had been seen in Minnesota. It was modeled on the New York Occupy Wall Street, in fact some visitors from NY were on the scene. Many of the typical rally promoters were present: Anarchists, Socialists, 911 Truth, FBI Witch Hunt, Women Against Military Madness, Peace Projects, Vets For Peace, etc. They were there as individuals, not a participating as a group. Labor Unions were present as individuals and participants in the rally speaker’s rostrum.

Some observers characterized the rally as not having the specific focus that typified the other groups, yet it was still highly focused on income and wealth injustice and the demand to fix it. The fix was not clearly enunciated, but there was no question about the problem description. They identified themselves as the 99%, the ones who do not share in the wealth of the top 1%. Homemade signs abounded, and there was a paint area with a large drop cloth protecting the grass.

Speakers included a range of citizens, union representatives and civic activists. Clyde Bellecourt, American Indian Movement co-founder and Chris Mato Nunpa, Dakota elder, provided a colorful, emotional recounting of history and how we got to the mess we now face.

There was a PA system, but the group often resorted to the techniques used in New York where PA’s were banned. The now famous, “People’s Mic.” The speaker’s words are repeated by the first few rows of participants, then by the rows behind them. It sometimes has a liturgical feel, but it is an effective way to bypass the need for PA systems.

Areas on the plaza were marked with signs on the plaza surface indicating: Volunteers, Kitchen, Public Safety etc. The kitchen passed out free food to all those who asked. It was fueled with donations of food and cash. Street medics patrolled to deal with any medical issues, but at 7:00 they reported no business.

Some 300 people moved to the south side of the Government Center at about 7:00 PM for the General Assembly. Those intending to spend the night carried sleeping bags, no tents were allowed.

Bill Sorem

Bill Sorem is a longtime advertising professional who started with Campbell Mithun and ended up with his own agency. After a tour as a sailing fleet manager in the Virgin Islands he turned to database programming as an independent consultant. He has written sailing guides for the British Virgin Islands and Belize, and written for a number of blogs. In 2010, he volunteered as a citizen journalist with The UpTake and has stayed on as a video reporter.

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