Hennepin County tightens plaza rules for OccupyMN protesters

The OccupyMN protesters who’ve been camped out on the Hennepin County Government Plaza day and night for a month face some tougher rules, starting Monday.

The county board voted Tuesday on new rules that will make it tougher for the occupiers to keep up their 24/7 vigil that’s intended to bring attention to the inequality between the top 1 percent of the wealth holders and the rest of us. At least that’s what the protest seems to be about.

About 35 to 40 people have been spending the night on the plaza during the protests. They’ve already consolidated their belongings in a small area and stopped affixing signs in the area, making chalk signs on the sidewalks, instead.

The new rules:

  • Individuals can demonstrate, assemble or otherwise use the plazas at any time.
  • No signs or posters (except those placed by the county) may be taped or otherwise affixed to county property.
  • No personal items or possessions may be stored or left unattended — if they are, they will be removed.
  • No one can sleep on the plazas or grounds.
  • No portable toilets will be allowed unless authorized by the county administrator, if necessary, for a limited time, if there is an expected large crowd for a particular rally, demonstration or event, or a maximum of one toilet because of an ongoing presence on the plaza after regular business hours.

 The county said the changes are needed because of:

  • Health and safety concerns for people using the plazas to sleep.
  • Costs of increased security.
  • Creation of an ongoing de facto campground on the plazas.
  • Inability of other groups and individuals to use the plazas.
  • Maintenance of the plazas, including ongoing winterizing activities.
  • Ability to clear snow from the plazas in a safe, effective and efficient manner.
  • Liability concerns related to personal safety and property of individuals.
  • Aesthetics of the plazas.

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