Hennepin authorities take down Occupy Minnesota tents

Hennepin authorities take down Occupy Minnesota tents Click to Enlarge Photo:

Dec 1, 2011 at 8:06 am

MINNEAPOLIS (KNSI, AP) - Hennepin County security employees removed about 30 tents early Thursday that were set up by anti-Wall Street protesters on a government plaza in downtown Minneapolis.

Police removed a handful of tents and took away two protesters. Other protesters stood by yelling at officers with megaphones. Six people were lying down as officers removed tents.

Police also took away protesters' sleeping bags.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek told KNSI's "Hot Talk with the Ox" Thursday morning that officers went in around 4 a.m. and dismantled the makeshift encampments.

"The use of tents is not an exercise of First Amendment rights. We didn't make any arrests and there weren't any trespassing (citations) given," Stanek said.

While Stanek said he recognized a majority of the Occupy Minnesota protesters are law-abiding citizens, he said law enforcement will continue to monitor the actions of the group's more militant members.

"There's a certain element of that group that want to continue to defy the county board of commissioners' rules, continue to defy the federal judge's orders and continue to put up tents. And that will not be allowed. We've been very clear about that," Stanek said.

Meanwhile, the cost of Occupy Minnesota policing on agencies like the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department continues to mount, Stanek said.

"This has cost us well over $300,000 over the past several weeks. Last night's actions are no different -- another $15,000 in taxpayer expense. While we appreciate their right to exercise the First Amendment and free speech, everyone has to follow the law," Stanek said.

The protesters had moved about half a block to City Hall after their tents were removed by security officers at the nearby Hennepin County Government Center earlier Thursday.

County security manager Kirk Simmons says the tents were taken down because they violate county rules. Demonstrators started setting up tents outside the Hennepin County Government Center during a rally Wednesday evening.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota sued the county on behalf of the protesters last week, saying the ban on tents and other restrictions violated their constitutional rights. But a federal judge ruled that the county has the right to restrict tents and sleeping on the plaza.

The protesters have occupied the plaza since early October.

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