OCCUPY ACROSS THE U.S.: Minneapolis protesters brace for winter demonstrations

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 | 2:47 p.m. CST; updated 5:29 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Editor's note: Missourian reporters visiting their homes during the week of Thanksgiving caught up with Occupy movements in those cities. This is one of six dispatches from the Occupy movement across the country.

MINNEAPOLIS — Officials have told Occupy Minneapolis protesters that if temperatures get below 25 degrees they will no longer be able to sleep outside at the downtown Hennepin County Government Plaza. This comes after a Nov. 8 ruling that barred protesters from sleeping at the plaza under any circumstances. 

"There are so few people staying there at night, maybe seven to ten, that the initial ruling about not sleeping at the plaza hasn't been strictly enforced," Hennepin County spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said last week.

Marinan did not know if dropping temperatures — a low in the teens was forecast for Thanksgiving night — will prompt police to more strictly enforce the no sleeping rule, but said that because protesters aren't allowed to erect tents, there is worry about their ability to withstand the cold at night. 

On Nov. 22, a 24-year-old protester was taken to a local hospital after he started to show early signs of hypothermia. The temperature was 36 degrees. More than a week earlier, Arctic explorer Ann Bancroft had visited the plaza to teach protesters how to properly winterize.  

Ragged blankets, a 10-gallon cooler of warm coffee and garbage bags of free, donated clothing are the only defense the protesters have against the Minnesota cold.

Protesters have been at the plaza since Oct. 10, when the Occupy Minneapolis movement started. In the beginning, large numbers of protesters gathered around drums and danced and talked at general assembly meetings about goals and demands of the movement.

On Saturday afternoon, about 10 protesters were present to demonstrate.

David Cummens, a retired Wells Fargo banker, said he's been at Occupy Minneapolis every day and will stay as long as the movement persists.

"I did this kind of protesting 30 and 40 years ago," he said. "I want to be out here for all of my friends and family that can't do this every day."

Cummens feels passionate about lending his time and effort to Occupy Minneapolis. The cold seems a trivial challenge in the face of what he hopes the nationwide Occupy movement will achieve.

"What I want from all of this is campaign finance reform, transparency between the government and the public and for corporations to be held accountable for their actions," he said.

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