Movement starting to ‘occupy’ Morrison County

‘Occupy the Dream’ held in Little Falls on MLK Jr. Day

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
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Morrison County residents joined forces with others across the country on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for “Occupy the Dream,” a new campaign for economic justice inspired by King’s legacy. Pictured during a peaceful gathering on Bank Square in Little Falls Monday, are (from left): Larry Fisk, Bruce Retka, Robin Hensel, Sr. Maurita Bernet, Alice Piotrowski and Lad Fisk. Others who joined later in the day included Jeff Odendahl, Abra Fisk, Theresa Skorseth, Alora Fisk, Gail Fisk and Doug Olson.

Robin Hensel agreed with what the Occupy Wall Street movement stood for when it started in the fall of 2011, but wasn’t able to take part in the large gatherings.

So she brought the movement to her home in Southeast Little Falls. “I’m occupying my front space,” she said.

However, the signs she placed in her yard were contradictory to what the city’s ordinance allowed and she was asked to remove them. She has one sign in her yard, but the majority of the signs are now on her van. Signs that call for social and economic justice.

Hensel said not being able to display the signs in her  yard made her feel stifled.

“I can’t have my signs out; I can only have one sign out and that limits what I want to say to everyone,” she said.

Monday, in conjunction with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a group, led by Hensel, gathered in a peaceful “Occupy the Dream” demonstration on Bank Square in Little Falls.

The signs read, “Economic Justice,” “Greed Causes Need,” and “Social Justice, Economic Equality for All,” which Hensel said are all causes Martin Luther King Jr. believed in.

“Martin Luther King stood for justice, stood for peace, civil rights, fairness and economic equality; in all those things he was strong,” she said.

The “Occupy the Dream” movement in Little Falls was a small part of a larger one, led by ministers from African-American churches who have joined the Occupy Wall Street movement, that began in September 2011.

Those larger demonstrations Monday, took place at Federal Reserve banks in 16 cities because organizers said it was the Fed that bailed out the banks and Wall Street while Main Street was left to suffer.

Hensel had considered doing something entirely on her own because of her interest in the Occupy movement. While not physically able to actively participate by camping out for days, she has delivered food and supplies to the Occupy movement in Minneapolis and “Met with a lot of nice people down there,” she said.

Because of her involvement, she received an e-mail invitation to host an event.

“So I did it with this Occupy the Dream — almost everything I’ve been putting out  in my front yard has been directly related to what Martin Luther King stood for, his causes as well as the Occupy movement,” she said.

Hensel said these are causes and issues she’s been working on her entire life.

Her plans are to reactivate the Little Falls Partners for Peace organization, and in doing so, hopes to bring the community together.

“That can be accomplished,” she said. “Anything is possible. Especially if we get women involved.”

The thinking of community-minded women is what will bring positive results, Hensel said.

“Women are the peacemakers, are the strength of the family and the church, and should be the strength of the business, political and government community,” she said.

Hensel said she also believes the community must  begin to work together to grow.

“Most people aren’t radical right or left, most are pretty moderate in their action and their thought, and in their religious philosophy,” said Hensel. “If we can come together wherever we are on the spectrum, left or right, we all have something that we can bring to the table. But we must respect each other in differing views.”

The next planned gathering will be Friday, March 30, near Coborn’s in conjunction with the National Occupation of Washington, D.C. and the beginning of the American Spring Movement.

Hensel sent a formal request to the city of Little Falls, asking to be able to display her signs in her yard once again. She also requested a place where people can gather for peaceful demonstrations in the city.

The Council has been informed of the requests, but has taken no action.