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Police arrest 11 during Occupy Minnesota protest

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Police in Minneapolis arrested 11 protesters Thursday for blocking a bridge near the University of Minnesota campus on the two-month anniversary of the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

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The protest on the 10th Avenue bridge was to call for jobs and racial equality. Nick Muhammad, from a group called Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, said the people arrested sat down in the middle of the bridge.

Police spokesman Sgt. Bill Palmer said in a Twitter feed that 11 were arrested. Sgt. Steve McCarty, another police spokesman, said they were cited for impeding traffic and public nuisance.

Earlier Thursday, about 40 protesters rallied at the University of Minnesota in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and other demonstrations nationwide. That protest was peaceful and there were no arrests, University Police Chief Greg Hestness said.

A mix of Occupy MN and other local activists, including some students, gathered on the plaza outside Northrop Auditorium to chant slogans like "Up with people" and "Down with greed" before marching off toward downtown Minneapolis, where protesters have been occupying the plaza outside the Hennepin County Government Center since Oct. 7.

Anya Svanoe, a protest organizer and recent university graduate, said participants are concerned about federal budget-cutting.

"When we're seeing the greatest concentration of wealth ever in history, why are politicians considering cutting from the most vulnerable in our society? Cutting from our children, cutting from our grandparents, the elderly," she said.

While the university was the scene of clashes between protesters and police during the Vietnam War, the Occupy movement has yet to catch on with the current generation of Minnesota students, several said.

Julia Potach, 18, a freshman from Minneapolis who organized and attended some Occupy events, acknowledged it's been hard to mobilize students for the cause and said there's almost a stigma against being an activist these days. She said she finds it "really cool" when one of her professors who graduated from the University of California at Berkeley tells stories about the old days of student protests, but she's noticed that students now are "not willing take the time to come out and protest something."

"I don't really know yet what it's going to take for students to want to get involved," Potach said.

The rally Thursday on campus drew only a few spectators. Among them was Jill Stein, 25, a graduate student from Robbinsdale who was walking past and stopped to listen. She said she's not sure how she feels about the movement, but that it's good to see people trying to do something to solve the world's problems.

"I don't know how much power they're going to have. Once things get cold people will probably end up going home," Stein said.

Authorities in Minneapolis have taken a largely hands-off approach, letting protesters sleep on the plaza this week in defiance of a ban on overnight sleeping that took effect Monday. The county board banned tents in the early days. While crowds for some events on the plaza has grown to several hundred, the ranks of protesters spending the night there have been much smaller, and low temperatures that dipped to the high teens early Thursday tested their will.

Before the campus protest, several students sampled at random in the student center said they haven't been following the protests because they've been focused on their studies and other activities.

Parker Lemke, 19, a freshman from Chanhassen, said he's read news stories about the protests but that's been the extent of his involvement.

"I understand where they're coming from and I can say I agree pretty much with where they're coming from, but I don't know what impact they've made," Lemke said.

Jonathan Bassen, 22, a computer science senior from Milwaukee, said he wants to see corporations having less influence on politics.

"As far as the whole Occupy Wall Street movement, I think that it's really great that there's this show of frustration with what's going on, but at the same time I'm not sure how constructive the demonstrations have been, because they haven't seemed to settle around a unifying theme," Bassen said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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