Hennepin County authorities said Friday that it's time for anti-Wall Street protesters who have been occupying a plaza outside the government center in Minneapolis to begin removing their items from the grounds.
Officials gave protesters a 10 a.m. deadline, and as of Friday morning, it appeared protesters were complying and clearing out supplies such as tables, backpacks and donated items they have been storing at the plaza since the occupation began Oct. 7.
County spokeswoman Carolyn Marinan said while the protesters' footprint has gone down in recent weeks, with snow in the forecast and cold weather settling in, clearing items from the area is a matter of practicality as the county starts dealing with snow removal.
"It's time to get this stuff off the plaza," she said.
The county told protesters they would no longer be able to store items like tables, chairs, boxes or tarps on the plaza. Personal items also cannot be left unattended, or they will be removed.
Marinan said in any other situation, "if there was an errant bag, we would go investigate and remove it."
"It's a safety concern for a variety of reasons. We don't let unattended or other materials just sit on the plaza or other public spaces," she said.
Marinan said protesters were moving items Friday and the situation was nonconfrontational.
Protester Ben Painter told KSTP-TV that he was at the plaza and watching over the protesters' belongings - so the items were not unattended. Painter told the station: "I think it's a little more important that we're able to have our voice heard than the plaza here looks perfectly clean ... the way they want to see it."
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)