OccupyMN demonstrators want permission for tentsby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — About two dozen OccupyMN protesters Tuesday asked Hennepin County commissioners for permission to put up tents.
Demonstrators have been camped out at the Hennepin County government center plaza for more than a week. Many of the demonstrators worry that people outside overnight in sleeping bags are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite. County Commissioner Mike Opat was one of several to voice opposition to tents or other structures.
"You want to come and assemble; come and assemble, use the space, conduct yourselves appropriately and then disperse," Opat said. "But where we get into problems is when you want to stay. It's a finite resource down there. If you're using it, no one else can."
Officials say in one week, the occupation has cost taxpayers more than $150,000, mostly in overtime for Sheriff's deputies. Minneapolis police officials said $43,500 has been spent in overtime to pay officers to monitor protest marches. A few commissioners encouraged protesters to go home at night and return in the daytime to occupy the plaza. But protesters have set up a makeshift kitchen and billboards. Some said it would be too much work to tear down the structures at the end of each day and rebuild them every morning.
Hennepin County agreed last week to erect an open-air canopy to shelter demonstrators from the weather, and foot the cost of to rent the canopy at $600 a week. Demonstrators said the 20-by-30-foot canopy doesn't shield people from wind and rain.