Occupy updates: Minneapolis, St. Louis and New Haven

Friday, October 21st, 2011 

Occupy Wall Street protests, begun last month in Manhattan, have now spread to over 100 cities across the country. An international day of action on October 15th brought protest events in 82 countries.  Here’s how our hyperlocal partners are covering Occupy protests in their towns.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet has been documenting OccupyMN, which began in Minneapolis on October 7th. A slideshow of day one of the protests shows the diversity of protestor concerns through signage.  Kristoffer Tigue reports conflict between demonstrators and law enforcement over the use of tents may change the location of OccupyMN.

Over the weekend, OccupyMN put up tents, police took them down, and one person was arrested. Now protesters say they may move off county property and onto city property — or onto bank property. Either move would mean a switch from the jurisdiction of Hennepin County Sheriff, who ordered the tents taken down, to the jurisdiction of Minneapolis police.

OccupyMN organizers and supporters rallied at the Hennepin County Government Center on Saturday, October 15 for day seven of Occupy Minnesota, a spinoff of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) which began almost a month ago.

However, the rally's main agenda was a matter of logistics that day: the protesters needed shelter. They declared the day an international day of solidarity, referring to the erection of tents among several of the current Occupy cities around the world. Over at the south side plaza, Occupy MN protestors placed several tents made of transparent plastic, despite a ban on structures there. From there, a group of roughly 90 protestors linked arms, surrounding the tents in a protective circle, where the focus shifted to hearing the stories of the individual protestors.

Read more in the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Un-American who? Rather than disrupt the World Series, Occupy St. Louis demonstrators had a commercial-free, big screen viewing of "America's favorite pastime" at their site.  Jo Mannies of the St. Louis Beacon writes:

Occupy St. Louis is inviting baseball fans without a World Series ticket to watch tonight's opening game, commercial-free, on a big screen at its campsite in Kiener Plaza. The Facebook notice doesn't say who is providing the big screen and equipment -- and whether they are part of the 99  percent.

Derek Wetherell, one of the Occupy activists, said the group was using a donated projector which will display what's shown on television onto a large white tarp. The setup has previously been used to air movies and documentaries, Wetherell said.

Via Facebook discussions this week, local activists have nixed the idea of doing anything disruptive in or near Busch Stadium, and instead are passing out fliers to game-goers.

Occupy St. Louis is holding a 5:30 p.m. rally today, dubbed the "Occupy the World (Series) Rally," and presumably to distribute fliers.

The group plans to begin airing the game on the big screen at 7 p.m.  In place of commercials, the screen will "stream (Occupy's) message against economic inequality," the Facebook announcement says.

Read more coverage in the St. Louis Beacon.

Drug use among occupiers was an issue in New Haven. But as Neena Satija reports in the New Haven Independent, protesters in New Haven are working with police to address the situation.

It all started when police officers called the occupiers hanging around 43 tents on the upper Green to a big tree in the middle of the encampment.

As the crowd of 40 or so gathered around, hushed, an officer shined his light on a cardboard sign lying against one of the tents. The sign read: “1 day CEO worth one year my labor? My ass.”

“It’s kind of true,” he said in reference to the sign and chuckled, prompting relieved laughter from his audience.

Then he got serious. “I walk around this tent, and it reeks like a blow field,” the officer said. “The drugs have got to stop. People from New York are going to be coming here this weekend, and you definitely don’t want what happened in New York to happen here.”

The cop was referring to the near-eviction of protesters at the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City’s Zuccotti Park that, while postponed, led to several struggles with police and arrests last Friday.

His audience immediately agreed with him: No more smoking pot, or anything else, around the camp.

“Thank you, officer!” someone yelled in response, and the crowd repeated after him in the human amplification method typical of the Occupy movement.

Discussion was spurred about honing the message at Occupy New Haven. And occupiers enforced the officer’s orders on occupiers who didn’t comply—with the leaderless, collective viewpoint heralded by the Occupy movement .

A mission statement Kiley had initially brought up with the General Assembly hadn’t been well-received. What about an open letter? Should they simply oppose corporate corruption or call for more specific actions, like a constitutional convention or the formation of another political party?

Just minutes later the meeting was interrupted again.

“It’s coming to my attention that hard drugs are being done in that tent,” said Eric Nash, who patrolled the area all night as a member of the Security Committee. He pointed to a tent a few yards away from where Kiley and the others had been talking.

It was time for an emergency assembly to decide what to do.

“We need to go over there and exercise our right to remove them from our movement,” Nash said to a crowd of about 30 who gathered around him. “Who wants to go over and do some talking with me?” About half the people raised their hands.

The group slowly approached the tent in the middle of the encampment. Nash did his best to knock on the outside. It took several minutes for a man in a red sweatshirt to stumble out.

“We’ve got to ask you all to vacate the tent,” Nash told the man calmly. About 20 minutes later, the group of 15 remained standing around the tent as all four individuals who had been sleeping there finally left.

Read more coverage of Occupy New Haven in the New Haven Independent.


 

What Went Wrong

Donald Barlett and James Steele are revisiting America: What Went Wrong, their landmark 1991 newspaper series, in a new project with the Investigative Reporting Workshop. Over the next year, the project team will examine how four decades of public policy has shaped America's ongoing economic crisis.

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The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

The Betrayal of the American Dream on Google Books

Check out the first chapter of Barlett and Steele's 2012 book here.