13 Occupy Homes protestors arrested at "Week of Action" rally on I-35 bridge [VIDEO]
Protestors gather in front of the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage building, as employees look on from inside.
Not long after 5 p.m. on Wednesday, a crowd of people, many of them in orange hats stamped with the slogan "Unlock Our Future," marched one block from the front of the Wells Fargo Home Mortgage building to the 26th St. I-35W bridge.
It was rush hour, and behind them, cars on the three-lane street stalled. Police officers, who had lined the curb with squad cars, vans, and a Metro Transit bus borrowed for the afternoon (route: "Police Bus"), milled around the entry of the bridge.
Brother Ali shook one of the officer's hands, then climbed into the bed of a white pickup truck, jerry-rigged with twin speakers, and started to perform. Around him, protestors hung banners off the bridge, and the traffic below honked in support.
"I want to give a shout-out to the officer who arrested me last time," Ali yelled, as the cop he was addressing nodded. By the end of the afternoon, 13 more Occupy Homes protestors would be arrested for civil disobedience.
They were there as part of a "Week of Action," in solidarity with the SEIU security officers on a one-day strike and to further advance the cause of a "Foreclosure Free-Zone" in several neighborhoods of South Minneapolis. The demands were familiar: They wanted fair banking practices like principal reduction; they wanted Wells Fargo to donate blighted homes to affordable housing non-profits; they wanted to make themselves heard.
For the SEIU security officers, the morning started at 6 a.m. outside the Wells Fargo Center in downtown Minneapolis. The Occupy Homes and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change action kicked off in the afternoon, when supporters gathered at a house in the Central neighborhood and then marched to a vacant home, owned by Wells Fargo, nearby.
Earlier in the week, the group had reclaimed the house, clearing trash, making repairs and moving in a homeless mother of four, Jessica English. Before they got involved, the property was being used as a drug den.
After English spoke from her new front yard, the protestors, now about 200-strong, marched to Wells Fargo Home Mortgage at 27th St. and 5th Ave. S. The police were waiting for them.
A police bus and two blocks lined with squad cars outside Wells Fargo
Officers allowed the protestors to set up a perimeter outside the doors of the locked building. The group continued chanting -- "Big banks make bad neighbors," went one -- as Wells Fargo employees gathered at the building's windows. One of them came down to accept a stack of petitions, and another, himself a former Occupy activist, addressed the crowd.
"I felt called to speak up despite the potential consequences," he said, as he emphasized that, though he disagreed with the institution, many Wells Fargo workers are themselves community members.
After about 20 minutes, the group was ready to move again. "They locked the doors," one of the leaders behind the megaphone said. "But we can go where all of Minneapolis will see us."
The crowd marched to the I-35W bridge across 26th St. Traffic behind them halted, and as they hung banners and linked arms, Brother Ali began to perform:
Traffic stopped on 26th St. as the protestors took over.
Hanging banners off the bridge.
Brother Ali performed from the back of a pickup truck.
He made it through just a few songs before the police, who had been standing by, stepped in.
Minneapolis police gave the protestors about 20 minutes on the bridge.
"This is an unlawful assembly in the roadway," one of the officers announced. Most of the crowd dispersed onto the sidewalks. Thirteen protestors, however, remained.
They sat in a circle in the center of the road, their arms linked, and prepared to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience.
An officer circled the ring of remaining protestors, telling them that if they did not move, they would be moved.
After the officer's third warning, cops waiting in the wings began to step forward in pairs. The first protestor they cuffed was a young woman. "It's good they took her first," a man on the sidewalk said as they marched her away. "She looked the coldest."
Officers led the first arrested protestor away from the bridge.
Two more officers stepped forward, then two more. As the circle grew smaller, with protestors being stood up for arrest, the remaining protestors re-linked their arms and moved closer together.
Back on the bridge, by the time police reached the third of 13 protestors, officers were shooing away the crowd on the sidewalk. When the last of the 13 was taken in, hardly anyone remained.
By 6 p.m., traffic on 26th St. was flowing again.
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