A few St. Thomas students gathered Saturday in downtown Minneapolis outside the Minnesota courthouse building in the U.S. Bank Plaza to demonstrate for economic equality in the U.S.
Senior Aaron Hays said police intervened early Sunday morning after tents were erected.
“Protesters set up tents in the area police previously said you couldn’t set up tents,” Hays said.
“Police came out to take down the tents and arrest people. Protesters were prepared for it, and we had about 60 to 70 people blockade,” Hays said. “Police decided just to take down tents and not arrest people.”
Police presence and intervention has not deterred protesters.
“There is talk about setting up more tents and pushing it farther,” Hays said.
What started as protests on Wall Street almost a month ago has spread across the globe. In Arizona nearly 100 people were arrested Saturday night.
Junior Anthony Guidotti, a student demonstrator, said there are more than 1,000 cities across the world where protesters are demonstrating frustration with their governments.
Guidotti believes people are protesting because the U.S. has become a “plutocracy” and has lost touch with democratic principles the nation was founded on.
“The richest 400 have more capital than the poorest 160 million Americans,” Guidotti said. “That’s not acceptable.”
St. Thomas students have participated in the event since it began three weeks ago. Two weeks ago, 19 students attended the event, and five spent the night, Guidotti said.
Junior Sarah Beyer protested Saturday because she wanted the public to gain awareness.
“I go to a school where I will be graduating with nearly $100,000 in student-loan debt, working two jobs the entire time,” Beyer said. “I think educated people such as myself shouldn’t have to be in this position.”
Not all agree with the protests.
Recent St. Thomas graduate Charlie Hilligoss said, “I am not a big fan… It seems like people want something done, so they pretend like they are making a difference… There are jobs available, right? Instead of sitting around waiting for the government to do something for you, just go do it yourself.”
Junior Channing James is optimistic, “I hope that something actually comes from this. I hope that it is not just in vain.” James said, “I came out because I believe in the movement. I don’t know all the facts, but I understand I am part of the 99 percent, and I don’t agree with the idea that the one percent is influencing most of the decisions in this country.”
Blankets, food, cigarettes, protest signs and materials to make signs, were all provided to the protesters by the organizers. The annual anti-war protest was happening concurrently in south Minneapolis, Saturday, and some protesters from Occupy Minnesota temporarily switched venues.
“The annual anti-war protest is happening today…so at this point they are organizing over there. A lot of people are over there and plan to come back over here after,” Guidotti said. “I feel that in the afternoon after people come back, attendance will jump here.”
It is unclear how long these protests will continue.
Patrick Roche can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.