Starting in mid-September at a park near Wall Street, a protest movement against corporate greed and social injustice has swept the globe. From Rome, Italy to Prescott, Arizona, thousands have turned out for protests, marches and symbolic occupations to draw attention to the needs of the 99%, versus the wealthy elite.
Organizing for a Twin Ports Occupy movement began in early October. It began with a facebook group and couple of small meetings at different apartments around Duluth. Then, like a subteranean fire bursting to the surface, it erupted into the open on the night of Monday, Oct. 10 with a "General Assembly" planning meeting at Leif Erickson Park that drew over 100 people. A Speak Out/Rally followed two days later at MN Power Plaza, where a wrestling match between activists, the City of Duluth, and MN Power corporation unfolded.
The Minnesota Power Plaza is a park located at the corner of Lake Ave. & Superior Street in downtown Duluth. For years it has been the favored spot for protests, due to its central location, and high visibility. And while most of the land the plaza is on belongs to the MN Power corporation, the city has an easement for it to allow the public to use it - and neither the company nor the city have ever made any effort to block protests there in the past. Worried though about an anti-corporate occupation on its doorstep, MN Power erected "No Tresspassing" signs on the morning of Oct. 12 just hours before the Speak Out/Rally. Activists promptly complained to the City, which asked MN Power to remove the signs. When they failed to do so, police came and removed the signs for them, allowing the protest to go forward and marking an important victory for the embryonic Occupy Twin Ports movement!
Following the Speak Out/Rally a second General Assembly was held that drew about 75 activists. The occupation proper began on Saturday, October 15. Following a day long rally at the MN Power Plaza, about 20 protesters erected a tent city at the Civic Center in front of Duluth's City Hall. Since then protesters have been occupying the MN Power Plaza by day - holding signs, serving food and holding rallies, while occupying the Civic Center by night.
The protesters come from a wide range of backgrounds. Among them are trade unionists, anti-war activists, students, unemployed workers, and people who state that this is the first protest they have ever attended. It truly has been a diverse group. And the response from the public has been overwhelmingly positive - as testifyed by the constant symphany of supportive car horns and the flashing of peace signs and clenched fists from passing pedestrians and bicylists.
The local labor movement, in particular, has been very supportive. The Duluth Central Labor Body has passed a resolution in support of the movement, and is paying for the portable toilets and the tent encampment. The Labor World newspaper has given prominent coverage to the protest, as has the Pulse, the newsletter of United Steelworkers Local 9460.
As the Occupy Twin Ports movement enters its third week, an impressive degree determination continues to manifest itself. Despite ever colder temperatures, a hardy core has continued to maintain the tent city. And with hundreds of people turning out for the afternoon Occupation Party at the MN Power Plaza on Oct. 22, there obviously no shortage of warm bodies determined to keep this movement going!
For those looking to plug in and support the Occupation, there are a number of ways you can do so. Most importantly you can simply show up and join the daily pickets at MN Power Plaza (which has been renamed "The Peoples Power Plaza"). Folks are welcome to show up there and hold signs any time between 6am and 11pm - though organizers are prioritizing having folks there for daily pickets at 5pm Monday through Friday, and at noon on weekends. You can also camp out at the Civic Center. Bring your own tent and sleeping bag if you can, but there are extras on hand if you need. And of course donations of food, money, blankets and even rubber gloves, are always needed and much appreciated!
You can stay in the loop by checking out either the Occupy Duluth or Occupy Twin Ports pages on facebook.com, or through www.occupyduluth.org. And of course you can check back here at the Northern Worker every Sunday for updates as well!