County Board cracks down on OccupyMN campout

The Hennepin County Board today delivered a blow to the OccupyMN protesters, ordering sheriff’s deputies to remove unattended personal items from Government Plaza, take down signs hung on public property and prohibiting sleeping on the plaza.

The resolution, passed unanimously by the seven-member board, does not prohibit ongoing protesters from demonstrating on Government Plaza, but it will likely make it impossible for the roughly three-dozen of them to continue protesting around the clock.

Hennepin County will not begin enforcing the resolution until Nov. 14, allowing time for protesters to gather up their things.

About 15 “occupiers” attended the board meeting. They wrote “free speech” on pieces of blue tape and stuck them to their mouths. During a public input period they promised that even if the resolution  passed, they would stay on the plaza.

“When you stand in the way of this, you’re standing in the way of a populist movement,” said one of the protesters, who did not give his name.

Margaret Hastings of Minneapolis, a self-described advocate for the homeless, said she supported the resolution and called it reasonable. She said the county has been practicing a double standard by allowing the protesters to sleep on the plaza.

“Homeless persons are not allowed to sleep out on the plaza,” she said. “The very inequality they talk about, they themselves are practicing.”

The resolution, as proposed by County Administrator Richard P. Johnson, included the banning of portable toilets. Commission Peter McLaughlin of Minneapolis, however, proposed an amendment that would allow for one portable toilet in the case of an ongoing protest. That amendment passed.

Commissioner Gail Dorfman proposed an amendment to remove the ban on sleeping on the plaza, because she said it would be difficult to enforce. She said people commonly use the plaza to take naps on nice days.

Her motion failed, but she still voted in favor of the resolution.

“This resolution continues your right to assemble,” Dorfman said.