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Twin Cities.Com: Wall Street protesters gathering in downtown Minneapolis

-By Evelina Smirnitskaya and Tad Vezner

October 7, 2011- Colorful signs and music filled the plaza in front of the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis on Friday as hundreds of protesters gathered to air grievances like those being heard in New York with the "Occupy Wall Street" movement.

Young and old joined the OccupyMN rally carrying signs with slogans like "We are the 99 percent" in a demonstration against economic disparity, contrasting themselves with the 1 percent of the wealthiest who they contend wield too much political and economic power.

"I paid more for this sign than some corporations paid in taxes!"

"If it's too big to fail, then it's too big!"

"I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one."

One sign added, simply, "Enough!"

By early evening sheriff's officials estimated the crowd had grown to 600. No arrests or trouble had been reported. Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison and a few state lawmakers made the rounds during the day, talking to organizers and protesters.

Although the main theme was economic disparity, protesters voiced a smattering of largely progressive grievances, including access to health care, cuts in education and racial inequities.

Dusty Hinz, a recent Augsburg College graduate, said he is concerned about sustainability of the planet. Robin Monahan, 68, wants corporations to stay out of national politics. Jeff Wilfahrt lost a son in Afghanistan in what he called an expensive war. He, among others, simply wants someone to pay attention.
"We're trying to get anybody and everybody out here. It doesn't even matter if you're the 1 percent, as long as you're willing to have a fair discussion on the issues," said Osha Karow, a spokesman for OccupyMN, one of the national offshoots of the anti-corporate Occupy Wall Street movement, which began three weeks ago in New York.

Afternoon speeches included words from veteran protester Clyde Bellecourt outlining injustices of the U.S. government against American Indians.
Bellecourt was followed by roughly a dozen more speakers, activists for organizations and causes.

"You only call it class warfare when we fight back," said Javier Marillo, president of SEIU Local 26, a union representing 5,000 janitors, cleaners and security officers, referring to a recent AFL-CIO report that the average U.S. CEO's pay was hundreds of times that of the average U.S. worker.

"That is class warfare!" Marillo added.

Some demonstrators broke away for a late-afternoon march to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. It was peaceful, with police stopping traffic for protesters.

The demonstrations have no set end date. Many protesters said they would not stay overnight because of work and other commitments, but would continue showing up in the following days.

"We're here until people feel like there's some sort of resistance," LaDonna Redmond, one of the organizers said. "This occupancy really is about a demonstration of frustration. It's about finding a voice."

Shanti Calabrin, a community organizer from Cold Spring, Minn., said she was initially skeptical about the event but changed her opinion.



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