The Big Story Blog

The Big Story Blog: October 17, 2011 Archive

Will protests, social movements bring change?

Posted at 7:20 AM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Peaceful change. Painful change. We're reminded of both starting the week.

In Yemen, the government is firing on protesters. In Minnesota and around the world, the "Occupy" movement seems to be wearing out its welcome with police.

And in Washington, officials dedicate a statue memorializing Martin Luther King, whose commitment to non-violent protest brought real change in this country.

Today, we'll be chasing the news on Occupy Minnesota. But we'll also be looking at what's happening around the world as people protest against their governments.

What does it take for citizens to make real political change in 2011? Could King do it now?

Help us answer those questions today. Jump in with your insights and questions about what your reading. Post something below or contact us directly.

Monday 10/17/2011
Can citizen protests remake the world?

Posted at 7:19 AM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Hed

OccupyMN to appeal for tents today

Posted at 7:51 AM on October 17, 2011 by Jon Gordon
Filed under: Economy, Politics

Occupy Minnesota demonstrators say they'll appeal to Hennepin County commissioners today for permission to construct temporary shelters on the Hennepin County Government Center plaza in downtown Minneapolis.

"The weather is changing and we have an inalienable right to have safety and shelter from the extremities," OccupyMN participant Jane Burns Leverenz, 59, of Pine City, told MPR News.

Hennepin County commissioners have invited demonstrators to a 1:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday to discuss the protest.

Need-to-read stories on Minnesota, global protest

Posted at 9:17 AM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

20111016_tents-protesters_33.jpgWe're reporting and following protest stories around the state and nation today. Here are some of the important ones.

Hennepin County commissioners expect to meet early this afternoon with protesters who'll be asking for permission to build temporary shelters by the Hennepin County Government Center.

Nationally, the most intriguing story comes from the Washington Post, which reports that President Obama may try to turn the anger over Wall Street against the Republicans.

Around the world, the "Occupy" movement is flashing toward the violent, with protests in Italy transforming into riots.

At Minnesota Today, editor Michael Olson has a feed of stories available on the "Occupy" protests across Minnesota. Check it out below.

See stories on line about the protests that we should read? Post links below or drop us a line directly.

Wall St. protests opening doors for Wisconsin Democrats?

Posted at 10:57 AM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics


Will the "Occupy" protest movements translate into political change? It's one of the main questions going forward here and across the country.

It's looking increasingly like Democrats see an opportunity.

It starts from the top. President Barack Obama launched a southeast bus tour today, starting in Asheville, N.C.

Reuters this morning reports the president, "will seek to tap into public anger at Wall Street excess to turn up the heat on congressional Republicans as he embarks on a campaign-style bus tour on Monday to rally support for his stalled jobs package."

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin's 7th Congressional District, a national Democratic political action committee is targeting Republican Rep. Sean Duffy with an ad lambasting him for prior comments suggesting he was struggling to live on his annual $174,000 congressional salary.

It's one district in one state. But as we keep tabs on the protests, it shows Democrats believe the anti-Wall Street issue can be used against Republicans in the 2012 election.

In Yemen, bullets greet demand for social change

Posted at 11:45 AM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

No matter what you think of the Occupy Minnesota protesters, they've been peaceful and there's a working relationship with local law enforcement and government. There's even a discussion expected this afternoon between Hennepin County commissioners and protesters seeking permission to set up shelters.

That sort of civility is nowhere to be found in Yemen, where protesters are being shot and killed demonstrating against that country's president.

Obviously, the stakes are higher in Yemen, where an autocrat clings to power.

The UN Security Council this week is expected to weigh a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire and transfer of power in Yemen.

The UN already knows it's more than a political crisis there, it's turning quickly into a potential humanitarian disaster.

The UN's World Food Programme last week acknowledged:

An increase in food prices, political uncertainty and fuel shortages are severely straining Yemenis' ability to feed their families...the country is now facing a serious humanitarian situation.

"Rising food prices and political instability have left millions of people in Yemen hungry and vulnerable. Malnutrition is stalking the lives of women and children," said WFP's Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

How much does First Amendment protect Occupy protesters?

Posted at 2:05 PM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

The non-profit reporting group ProPublica has a good piece today on First Amendment rights and the limits on those rights for protesters in the "Occupy" movement.

ProPublica writes:

The First Amendment is not absolute. Government can make reasonable stipulations about the time, place and manner a peaceable protest can take place, as long as those restrictions are applied in a content-neutral way.

But what constitutes a reasonable time, place and manner restriction? "It depends on the context and circumstances," said Geoffrey Stone, a professor specializing in constitutional law at the University of Chicago. "Things like noise, blockage of ordinary uses of the place, blockage of traffic and destruction of property allow the government to regulate speakers."

These could be important points in Minnesota. We're still waiting any news this afternoon from a meeting of Hennepin County commissioners and Occupy Minnesota protesters over the protesters request to build temporary shelters by the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis.

If the commissioners say no, how much can the demonstrators rely on the First Amendment?

(MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy)

Occupy MN changing minds? What our readers say

Posted at 2:50 PM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

With the Occupy Minnesota protests starting their second week and the conversation continuing to roll in social media about the "Occupy" movement in the U.S. and social protest around the globe, we wanted to find out if local protests are influencing the views of people in greater Minnesota.

So we asked folks in MPR News' Public Insight Network earlier today for some perspective.


We got about 20 responses during the day today and while it's not a scientific poll the Network gives us a chance to let our audience share their perspective.

Here are some of the things they told us today.

June Kallestad initially found the Occupy Minnesota message confusing. The Cloquet woman, though, says she support the movement, though she's not sure about its tactics.

They are making the point that the power brokers of the U.S. (the wealthiest 1%) should not be the sole decision-makers for those of us without the funds to buy political clout.

I think it's great that people are making their voice and opinion known. Big corporations and deep pockets have the biggest impact on how our country is run, but this is giving a voice to the rest of us. Whether or not it will make a difference.... I'm hopeful, but skeptical.

In Moorhead, where the "Occupy" movement now has a presence., Willard Hiebert applauded "the fact that people who are not multimillionaires are making their voices heard."

The idea of lowering taxes on the rich in order to create jobs has not worked at all in the last several years. Witness the fact that corporations are sitting on large bundles of cash and NOT creating jobs with it.

There has to be more emphasis on the "common good", and therefore sufficient tax revenue is necessary to support this.

The "less government is better" philosophy is not going to help us get there. It will make most of us have a poorer quality of life while the very wealthy isolate themselves more and more from the rest of society.

Like Hiebert, most of those who responded didn't feel like the protests had changed their views. Odds are if you for the protests before, you were for them today.

That applies, too, to folks who saw the movement from the start as basically a bunch of complaining slackers.

"To all you 'occupy Wall Street' types out there: If you want to live in a socialist country, move to a socialist country," wrote Timothy Fry of Baxter.

This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. By the way, if you ever do decide to take responsibility for your own lives, I would leave off my resume the part about being 'anti-business' or 'I went without bathing for socialism.'

Whether you're in greater Minnesota or in the Twin Cities, help us continue the conversation. Post something below or press the Insight button.

View Views on Occupy MN in a full screen map

3 things about social movements and protests

Posted at 4:50 PM on October 17, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Politics

(MPR Photo/Rupa Shenoy)

Interesting day for protest movements. The newest statue in Washington celebrates America's greatest non-violent protester. The "Occupy" protest movement celebrates its one month anniversary today.
In Yemen, non-violent protesters are met with bullets.

Wells Fargo Bank, castigated by protesters for excess profits, was punished by investors today, losing more than 8 percent of its stock value, after announcing record quarterly profits. It wasn't good enough.

Here are some other things we learned today chasing stories on protests and protest movements.

1.) Democrats see an opening. The anti-Wall Street themes in the "Occupy" protests around the country may be creating a campaign theme for Democrats. That's increasingly true nationally and as close as western Wisconsin.

2.) "The First Amendment is not absolute." The not-profit reporting group ProPublica offered a good lesson on First Amendment protections and at what point they don't protect protesters in the street. "Government can make reasonable stipulations about the time, place and manner a peaceable protest can take place, as long as those restrictions are applied in a content-neutral way."

3.) Hearts and minds are hard to shift. It wasn't scientific at all, but we got about 20 responses today from Minnesotans in MPR's Public Insight Network talking about the protests. We asked specifically if people had changed their views about Occupy Minnesota or the protests generally since they began.

What did you learn today about protests and social movements that we should know about? Post below or drop us a line.

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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