What Hath OccupyMN Wrought?

The tent city is long gone. But a year after it began, the impact the Occupy movement had in Minnesota and the world is still being felt. People now talk about the “99 percent vs the 1 percent” in mainstream political conversations. People are no longer ashamed to talk about their homes being foreclosed, are willing to fight back against banks and occasionally win in their battles to keep their homes.

But the biggest legacy of Occupy may be the activism it unleashed.

“The fact that we can no longer wait for politicians to represent us and change comes from the bottom up,” said Occupier Jaime Beldon in her assessment of what the movement accomplished.

“One of the criticisms of the Occupy movement was that they didn’t have an agenda,” said Occupier Lee Ross. “But my own feeling was that these young people are the agenda.”

OccupyMN came to life on the Hennepin County Government Center Plaza on October 7, 2011. The Plaza was renamed The People’s Plaza. Just like its namesake, Occupy Wall Street in New York, OccupyMN grabbed the attention of the media and attracted a diverse group of people. Some were long-time peace and justice activists. There were students, labor union members, anarchists, veterans and lots of others.

For many weeks there were almost non-stop events, rallies and meetings. A community grew on the Plaza with kitchen, library, child care, teach-ins, first aid stations.

In the few months that the plaza was occupied, there were many police actions and arrests. The tent city was shut down before the cold weather came.

The UpTake was there covering OccupyMN from the start. Here’s The UpTake’s first story on Occupy. In the year since, The UpTake’s team has covered the many twists and turns of the movement. Thousands of people have been involved in some way or other. Many injustices have produced rallies of protest. OccupyHomes MN sprang to life and has resulted in a number of homes saved from foreclosure and sale.

OccupyHomes MN is even involved in upcoming elections.

We asked a few people for the memories of Day One and what they saw as the legacy of Occupy.

Coleen Rowley was, “Disappointed that the dots were never connected in the Occupy movement between the domestic miseries that people are experiencing, the foreclosures, the lack of health care, the student loan debt. All these domestic miseries that are occurring, I don’t think were connected enough to the war costs.”

Deb Konechne said, “I think Occupy breathed life into the movement that already existed. I think it shown a light on it. I think it took the mask off the one percent.”

Roger Cuthbertson agreed. “What I think Occupy accomplished was much. To get just … for one thing, getting the conversation going about the 1 percent and the 99 percent, it’s still having huge repercussions. I don’t know what the legacy is but, for sure but, just getting, just seeing all those young people getting involved.”

Lee Ross says engaging young people will lead to lasting change. “I think those young people who were involved, their lives have been changed… I think the community’s life has been changed also. The media and the government are going to have to sit up and pay attention.

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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