Minnesota Power puts up 'No Trespassing' signs ahead of Occupy Duluth
Newly placed "No trespassing" signs on the Minnesota Power Plaza aren't meant to discourage free speech, a spokeswoman for the utility said Tuesday. The signs went up on Tuesday, the day after members of the newly formed group Occupy Duluth said ...
Newly placed "No trespassing" signs on the Minnesota Power Plaza aren't meant to discourage free speech, a spokeswoman for the utility said Tuesday.
The signs went up on Tuesday, the day after members of the newly formed group Occupy Duluth said they were considering occupying the plaza after a rally today.
"It's just us identifying an appropriate space for them," said Amy Rutledge, Minnesota Power spokeswoman. "Certainly we respect their right to peacefully demonstrate. So we've identified a spot where we recommend that they congregate. ... And then we also have our space that's private property, so we can continue to conduct business."
Joel Kilgour, a longtime Duluth activist who is part of the loosely structured protest group, said Occupy Minnesota would meet at 6 p.m. today after a two-hour "Occupy Solidarity" rally hosted by the Twin Ports MoveOn Council and the Northland Anti-War Coalition as well as by Occupy Duluth.
The group will decide its next move then, but it will begin its occupation no later than Saturday, Kilgour said. He noted that the plaza is partially owned by the city and partially by the utility.
"It's telling that the public plaza is partly owned by a corporation," Kilgour said.
Occupy Duluth was inspired by Occupy Wall Street, whose organizers say they are protesting corporate greed and demanding economic fairness.
Rutledge said the point of the signs was to show protesters where the public area of the plaza ends and the private area begins. Asked why Minnesota Power hasn't found that necessary until now, she said the possibility of an occupation is a new situation.
"I think we're treating it differently in that we've never necessarily had this kind of an event before," Rutledge said. "Given how the events have played out in other areas where there's talk about camping out, we are treating it a little differently. They're talking about camping out, and we're not comfortable with that happening on private property."
Would police be called if occupiers camped on Minnesota Power company?
"We hope that the group, as they demonstrate their right to free speech, that they would respect the rights of Minnesota Power to conduct business," Rutledge said. "By having that signage up if police had to be called they would be able to respond because there are signs up that identify it as private property."
Kilgour said Occupy Duluth hadn't sought Minnesota Power's permission to use the plaza, but had communicated with Duluth police. "We are committed as a group to integrate their concerns into our plans," he said.
Asked why the group hadn't so far considered the Civic Center, which is entirely in the public realm, Kilgour said it didn't have nearly the visibility that Minnesota Power Plaza has.