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Deputies Take Protesters' Tents at OccupyMN

Protesters in Minneapolis tested a tent ban Saturday.

OccupyMN protesters in downtown Minneapolis set up sleeping tents for the first time Saturday afternoon, only to have sheriff's deputies move in and remove the tents early Sunday.

It was the ninth consecutive night of a 24/7 demonstration that started Oct. 7 at the Hennepin County Government Center in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Two Kinds of Tents
As many as 50 sheriff's deputies and security officers confiscated both camping-style tents and handmade pup tents. No one was arrested during the tent-clearance operation, but an elderly man was led away to an ambulance afterwards.

The pup tents were what demonstrators called "transparent structures," made from clear plastic sheeting and light lumber and meant to skirt a ban on tents. Demonstrators said the clear sheeting satisfied a law-enforcement concern that tents would obscure activities inside.

Trespassing Arrest
Soon after the tents were in place, attention shifted briefly to the sidewalk for the first arrest at OccupyMN when authorities took Melissa Hill of Minneapolis into custody. Hill, who was acting as a legal observer, had received a trespass notice Thursday after chalking messages at the protest site. She was released on $50 bail.

The tent drama began Saturday after a brief 4:30 p.m. rally, when protesters carried the tents in a procession from the plaza area to a grass circle on the other side of the government center.

About 500 were on hand at the height of the demonstration—about half the size of the crowd on . Again those gathered and other demographic categories.

A group of about 40 protesters locked arms in a circle around the tents. They had volunteered during the rally earlier and received brief training in nonviolent civil disobedience.

A few ordinary, non-transparent tents soon joined the others. (By 10:30 p.m. raindrops began to fall.)

Another Saturday for Rosemount Man
It was the second Saturday at OccupyMN for Doug Faroni of Rosemount. "Getting money out of politics" was one of the issues that motivated him to make the trip.

Faroni drove to the Mall of America and took the Hiawatha light rail train, arriving at the Government Plaza about 2 p.m. He said he took part in a teach-in about the U.S. Constitution and spent the rest of the afternoon "wandering around and talking to people."

One of the people he met and talked to that day was Pat Thompson of St. Paul.

They ran into each other again Saturday on the fringes of the crowd gathered around the tents.

Faroni didn't have his sign from last week: "Dear 1%: The people's government is no longer for sale. If you need a country, go buy an island and leave ours alone. We the people."

Thompson, who helped build the tents earlier Saturday a few blocks from the protest site, had her sign: "Co-ops and Credit Unions Are Part of the Solution."

Faroni brought hand warmers and toe warmers to donate to the protesters who spend the night. He said he had seen cold protesters while watching online livestreamed video of OccupyMN. And he sympathized—"I've done cold weather camping."

Watching Online in Shakopee
Another person watching the protest online is a 25-year-old student in Shakopee who asked to be identified only as Daniel G who said he learned about OccupyMN while watching news of other Occupy protests. An internet search led him to the OccupyMN livestream.

"I think it is incredibly uplifting to see people coming together and demand that the government hear their voice," he said via email. "I could not be more proud to be both an American and a Minnesotan right now."

He had the protest video playing while doing homework Saturday night. (He has a B.A. from St. John's University but is now at Mankato State University studying to become a special education teacher.)

"I’m sick of a president and a congress that I voted for fail to meet expectations time and time again," he said. "The people I’ve seen here tonight have let me know that there are people like me out there" seeking social, political and economic justice."

Those are people he met at the webstream's chat window. He said he plans to work ahead in his studies so he can go to Minneapolis to join the protest in person.

Jacobsen had lots of online company. The livestream logged about 500 viewers during much of the evening, and 5,300 were watching later when the deputies took the tents—as was announced to loud applause from the protesters.

Four To a Tent
Temperatures dropped into the 40s overnight. Some protesters were in sleeping bags and tents as midnight approached, while many others stood in clusters, discussing the day's events.

One protester, who gave his name only as Jesse, said he was ready for a night sleeping outside the tents ("I'm layered quite well") to defend them —nonviolently—if authorities made their move.

Others were getting ready to occupy "transparent shelters."

John Jacobsen, who works at a law firm across the street from the protest site, and Elias LaVelle, who lives in northeast Minneapolis, were standing outside their pup tent talking around midnight. The tents' other two occupants were already asleep.

Jacobsen, who studied political science at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, had earlier brought a backpack full of books as bedtime reading, with candles for out-of-tent illumination. He also had a printed-out study of income inequality handy to show to others.

"My big thing is income inequality," he said. His interest in the economic conditions of people whose case files he reviewed was partly responsible for his job coming to an end this month after a year and a half, he said: "I'm getting fired because I 'look too deep,'" he said.

At the OccupyMN protest, though, he found plenty of like minds to share ideas with. "This is awesome," Jacobsen said. "These are the best people I've ever met."

Then he surveyed the scene and gave a more sober assessment: "This is Saturday night in downtown Minneapolis and we're camping out the rain."

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