Friday marked the one week anniversary of the Hennepin Country Government Center Plaza occupation. Unlike last week, this week actually had some relatively exciting occurrences when the occupiers tried to perform their first act of civil disobedience. Namely a group of occupiers decided it was time that they were allowed to put up tents and they planned to give the local police a giant middle finger and start erecting tents against the orders of the country.
I visited the Plaza on Friday evening and Saturday from early afternoon to the early hours of Sunday. Although I had no real stated goal during my visit Friday I was fortunate enough to run into a few of guys from We Are Change. I say this encounter was fortunate because they were playing The American Dream and Freedom to Fascism on a projector in the Plaza in the hopes of educating some of the occupiers about the real state of the Federal Reserve. Although this occupation was originally going to happen at the Minneapolis Federal Reserve the location was changed a little under a week before the occupation was to begin. Besides writing stories one of my goals when visiting the occupation has been to education attendees on economics as such knowledge is sorely lacking.
The guys from We Are Change also ordered seven pizzas which they gave out freely to occupiers. Let me take a moment to warn anybody who plans on brining food to the occupation, there are a handful of really ungrateful fucks there. One of the first people to come by after the pizza arrived said in a really snooty manner, “We’ve resorted to Domino’s?” I replied, “Do you know who else will deliver pizza here at 10:00 at night?” He then said, “They don’t have any vegan pizza.” and walked off. Well tough fucking shit asshole, it’s free pizza, if you don’t like it then don’t fucking eat it. Seriously that prick really rubbed me the wrong way but I’m happy to say he was an exception, most of the people there were damn grateful to receive the bounty of free pizza.
After the pizza was distributed I decided to wander around the Plaza. For those who haven’t been to the Plaza it is broken up into two halves, a south grounds and north grounds. Most of the events occurring at the occupation take place on the northern grounds while people generally sleep on the grassy knoll located on the southern grounds. Friday’s
arduous waste of time general assembly took place on the souther grounds. When I ran into the general assembly they were discussing the tent situation. In summary the tent situation was a planned act of civil disobedience where people were planning on showing up and pitching tents on the southern grounds against the country’s ordinances. Although I missed the beginning of the general assembly the later portion involved a great deal of arguing between those wanting to pitch tents and those who were afraid doing so would incite the wrath of the police. I ventured around and periodically returned to see if the general assembly had managed to move on from the topic but every time I returned they were still arguing about the same bloody thing. Finally it was decided that a special tent committee (the occupiers love their committees) meeting would take place after the general assembly to discuss the tent situation.
I attended the tent committee meeting as I was interested in the possibility of civil disobedience finally taking place. As with most committee meetings, the tent committee meeting ended up being mostly a waste of time where an hour or more was spent arguing the inevitable. A long back and forth continued where those opposing the pitching of tents were angrily debating with those who were going to pitch tents. Note the phrasing I used, “were going to pitch tents.” This is what made the debate pointless, those who wanted to pitch tents were going to regardless of what anybody else said (good on them by the way, if you’re planning on doing something then just fucking do it).
Eventually a lady whom I know presented a smart idea which was to build tents out of transparent plastic. I say this was smart because the country’s biggest opposition to allowing occupiers to pitch tents as been the fear that said occupiers would be doing naughty things inside the tents. What happened after this was rather interesting. A couple people in opposition to pitching tents scurried off and accusations started floating around that those people were going to the police. If there is one thing I’ve noticed at this occupation it’s the constant accusations being thrown around that so-and-so is a snitch or plant. Another friend of mine whom I ran into earlier Friday evening informed me that several people believed I was an infiltrator. Anybody who knows me knows that this news was met with a giant, “FUCK YEAH!” I enjoy the art of trolling and if a group of occupiers believe I’m an infiltrator all the better, I’m going to play this card for as long as possible (I’m also the least inconspicuous infiltrator ever, what with my business casual dress, australian hat, and brown oilskin coat). Still the second somebody disappears from a meeting, talks to a cop, nods to a cop, or otherwise does something to raise the ire of another occupier the accusation of that person being a snitch or plant is usually not far behind.
While I believe the tea party has been completely taken over by neocons at this point I still stand behind the original movement which was simply a protest against taxation. The tea party movement and the various occupy movements are often compared. Since I’m not one to pass by low hanging fruit I might as well make a comparison between the tea party movement and the occupy movements. Nobody at any tea party protest I attended every worried about a fellow protester being a plant of police informant. In fact the police were often embraced by those at tea party protests and everybody attitude about government plants was basically, “Whatever, we’re not going anything illegal.” It’s an interesting comparison for sure and I’m not sure if the occupy movement’s obsession with police plants and informants is caused by living in a police state or is a side effect of the collectivist mentality. What I mean by it being a side effect of the collectivist mentality will be covered in a future post as it’s quite a side note to drift off into right now. Either way let’s move onto Saturday’s events.
Among the people at the Plaza on Saturday afternoon were the usual crowd and a religious zealot trying to stir trouble through preaching against abortion, homosexuality, and other similar fundamentalist issues. While several occupiers argued pointlessly with the preacher I moved onto the southern grounds of the Plaza in anticipation of the tent pitching which was scheduled to start at 16:00. On the souther grounds I noticed news trucks from Fox 5, KSTP, and KARE 11 on location awaiting the great act of civil disobedience. 16:00 rolled around and nothing happened, not a single tent was pitched. 16:15 rolled around and still nothing, at this point I figured those who were talking big about pitching tents simply chickened out and the entire occupation lost any hope of appearing serious about anything. I stuck around as there were occupiers slowly gathering in the center of the grassy knoll where many people slept the night before hoping one of them would finally pitch a tent.
Finally at 16:18 two men with tents arrived, went to the center of the grassy knoll, and stood around. Neither pitched their tent though and it appeared as though all the talk, debate, and screaming the night before was for naught. At 16:30 I decided to wander around the Plaza again as nothing was happening on the southern grounds. What I found on the northern grounds shocked me, during the time I went to the southern grounds and when arrived again on the northern grounds some industrious individuals had build shitty, but effective, tents out of boards and transparent plastic. I’m not sure of the time but eventually a large group of people picked up the tents and everybody marched from the northern grounds to the southern grounds of the Plaza changing, “We are the 99%!” While I found the chanting incredibly creepy (I don’t like group chanting at all) I was glad to see the occupiers had more balls than I thought. They moved the tents into the center of the grassy knoll and stood around challenging the police to take them.
Eventually some officers from the Sheriff’s department showed up with camera equipment in two and filmed the entire scene. I had my phone camera out filming the police because I like to return the favor whenever I see evidence of the surveillance state. After some time the police returned to the Plaza building and weren’t heard from again for quite some time. I moseyed around seeing if the country security was going to make a move but they mostly just wander around themselves. At some point in the late afternoon a couple county security officers arrested Melissa Hill. While the charges claimed by the country police was “trespassing on a public sidewalk” it wasn’t until later that I learned Melissa was earlier banned from the Plaza grounds for chalking (while most of the Plaza grounds are now covered in sidewalk chalk I’m not sure what specific circumstance lead to her banishment). Either way she was released fairly quickly.
After Melissa’s arrest not much happen for a long time. I met a few new faces, some other people I know, and had a lot of interesting conversations as I meandered around the grounds looking for anything exciting to write about. One thing I did pass was a Soviet hammer and sickly drawn in sidewalk chalk on a building surface. Due to the wide variety of people attending the event I wasn’t sure if this image was drawn in support of communism or as a criticism of our ever increasing police state. If the image was in support of communism I hope the artist decides to look into the bloody history of the Soviet Union. Anybody who can read about the millions murdered by the Soviet government and still support the system scares the living shit out of me.
During the late evening I decided to move up to the parapet on the southern side of the Hennepin Country building. There were chairs up there and I planned to stick around until the police finally moved to interveine with the occupiers surrounding the tents. Unlike many people I like to clear my head and relax before expected trouble arrises. I found a chair on the parapet, pulled my hat down low, and closed my eyes just listening to the events unfolding around me. Members of the occupation’s media team eventually came up to the parapet and asked people up there to leave as they wanted to setup a “hidden” camera to record any police brutality. They never came over to ask me to leave (which is good because I wouldn’t have left and I don’t like people messing with my zen thing before a big event either) I did get to listen in on their laughable plan. If you’ve never been to the country building let me explain the layout of the parapet; one side faces the grassy knoll while the other side faces a wall of windows making up the center of the country building. Ducking low can prevent you from being seen from the knoll but there is no way you can hide from anybody inside the building. Being the police were inside of the building I thought the media team should have thought their clever plan through a bit more thoroughly.
At one point I was joined by an interesting gentleman whom I talked to for quite some time about various world issues. The man was well traveled, intelligent, and had a great number of stories and ideas which were good to listen to. Like myself he was there more as an observe than a participant and we made some rather interesting observations about the ongoings of the people occupying the knoll. My favorite thing about visiting the Plaza grounds during this occupation has been the interesting conversations I’ve had with random individuals.
Around 1:00 a county officer came onto the parapet and asked those of us up there to move down below as the police were planning to make an announcement. The gentleman and me moved down and sat at the base of the steps while roughly 40 police officers moved out of the county building and surrounded the occupiers on the knoll. The police walked around and announced that the tents were a violation of the occupation’s own bylaws (the organizers of the occupation specifically stated they wouldn’t erect tents) and made one last request for people to remove their tents from the property.
It’s rather funny because the occupiers were planning for everything from tear gas to mace. The street medics all had bottles of water at the read and vinegar to soak bandanas to help reduce the effects of tear case. Escape plans were drawn up, occupiers were warned about what would likely come, and a great deal of effort was put into overcoming the tactics believed to be used by the police to breakup the crowd. The occupiers were ready for everything… everything except one tactics, the police peacefully coming over and simply walking off with the tents.
That’s what the police did, they simply picked up the tents and walked off with them. No tear case was launched, nobody was maced, and no arrests were made. Watching this was downright humeros because the police walking off with the tents reminded me of worker ants carrying leaves back to their nests. They just silently walked in, grabbed a tent, and walked off with it. Likewise the police recorded the entire event while they were removing the tents. It’s not often I get a chance to commend police officers on anything these days but I commend the Hennepin County and Sheriff’s Department officers on their handling of the situation. While I find the country’s ordinances controlling the use of public property to be bullshit I also understand that the police could have been far more violent in their handling of the situation.
There were a couple of occupiers who were downright hilarious. Four cops walking off with a tent hit some handing branches of a tree with the tent and an occupier streams something along the lines of, “OH YOU HIT THE TREE, HOW FUCKING SMART TO YOU FEEL NOW? NO SHIT YOU HIT A FUCKING TREE!” As he was yelling at the cops I made the remark to the gentleman I met earlier saying, “That kid seems to think the police are pretty stupid but they still have his tent.” Another occupier was yelling, “WE’RE FIGHTING FOR YOUR PENSIONS! WHY AREN’T YOU WITH US INSTEAD OF AGAINST US?” If that kid had any brains he could have put two and two together and realized that any officer who joined the occupiers would find himself out of a job which would mean no pay now and no pension later. Yet another funny occurrence was the occupiers chanting, “WE’RE RESISTING ARREST!” I have some bad news for those occupiers, you can’t resist arrest unless you’re being arrested. Since the police weren’t making any arrests there were no grounds to claim you were resisting arrest.
After the police walked off with all of the tents they just vanished back into the county building without saying a word. When the action subsided the gentleman I had been talking to went home and I decided to move up and listen to the aftermath meeting behind held by the occupiers who still remained sans tents. The funniest thing I saw was a sign held by one of the occupiers that said, “Thank a union for your weekend.” Being a union just walked off with their tents this seemed like a rather idiotic sign to be holding. Another girl was going on about the injustice she had to bear, apparently a police officer touched her shoulder when they were taking the tents and she didn’t want to be touched there. She was being incredibly whiny about it and trying to make it sound like being touched on her shoulder was akin to being maced and beaten by a baton. While I respect her resolve in not running at the first sign of police officers I really wanted to go up to her and aske her to kindly shut the hell up. Others were talking about pitching some more tents immediately but nothing appeared to have come of it.
Not surprisingly an emergency committee was formed with the goal of deciding whether or not to pitch new tents immediately, pitch some later, or pitch some on the U.S. Bank grounds. Being I had been at the Plaza for many hours, it was cold as fuck, and I was tired I decided to call it a night and return home.
It was a fun weekend and once again I’m glad I went to the occupation. Every time I visit I managed to walk away with stories to tell and honestly, say what you will about the occupiers, they are some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Most of them will talk to anybody and many have interesting stories to tell.