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In Minneapolis progressives, unions surf wave of Occupy protests in march against big banks

A host of progressive activists, Occupy Wall Streeters and union members rallied and marched from Peavey Plaza in downtown Minneapolis to the Wells Fargo building Friday.

The march, which led to a sit-in protest outside the bank’s headquarters, was spurred by what marchers defined as the unwillingness of the major banks, including Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank, to address the continuing foreclosure crisis.

“The primary reason we’re here is to ask banks to pay their fair share and work to mediate mortgages with people having trouble paying their mortgages because of what’s happened to our economy,” Rev. Grant Stevenson, who was attending the rally as a representative for the faith-group ISAIAH, told the Minnesota Independent. “At the same time, the banks have been bailed out to the tune of 1$ trillion, it’s time for them to pay back and start investing in their community.”

The marchers had originally proposed to ask that Wells Fargo help negotiate the home loan of Michael LeFever and Cheryl Downey, who until late this week were facing foreclosure. As a result of pressure from Occupy Minnesota members, the bank contacted the couple to negotiate the loan, according to the City Pages.

The rally was preceded by a concert featuring hip-hop acts. The square outside Orchestra Hall was packed with music aficionados and activists protesting everything from war to the economic equality.

Devon Sykes, a musician, activist and barista who organized the musical side of the event, told the Minnesota Independent that the goal of the event was to pull together the artistic community with activists, and “give people some fire before we go march and have our voice heard.”

Leroy Duncan, an organizer for TakeAction Minnesota, which helped pull the march together, told the Minnesota Independent the march was a response to a number of related issues that impact people’s lives.

“What really got people to buy into this was just a frustration that many people—everyone you see here—shares, whether it’s wages that don’t pay enough or whether it’s cuts to hours or cuts to school programs,” Duncan said. “Beyond that it’s literally our communities not having opportunity.”

Duncan said most of the groups organizing the protest supported the Occupy activists holding Hennepin County Government Plaza down the street, but said they weren’t holding their breath for politicians in the DFL-stronghold of Minneapolis’ to come out on the side of the activists.

“As people come out in numbers and show this type of support, we eventually begin to tell the real stories of our communities and what we’re frustrated with,” Duncan said. “It doesn’t come from politicians, it comes from people changing the debate.”

At the occupation in Hennepin County Government Plaza, protesters were preparing for some evening events and steeling themselves to set up tents on the opposite end of the plaza against the wishes of Hennepin County Sheriff Department, which controls the plaza. Occupy Wall Street protests in other areas have led to arrests as authorities sought to crack down on people staying in parks overnight.

Occupy Wall Streeters in Minneapolis said about 100 people have been sleeping in the area each night without tents.

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