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On Friday, July 13, charges of disorderly conduct against Lara Simpson, a member of Occupy Duluth, were dismissed under a "Continuance for Dismissal" clause. "Basically I have to have no other run-ins with anything of the like within the year and it will go away," said Simpson.
On May 1, Simpson, a handful of Occupy members, and others who were assembled for a variety of issues such as protesting the war or standing up for women's rights were having a Mayday celebration on the MN Power Plaza located at Lake Ave. and Superior St. The Mayday celebration included tents, live music and free food. The event ended when over a dozen uniformed and plain clothes officers of the Duluth Police Department showed up to shut things down. At one particularly tense moment, officers started to corner a member of the Occupy movement who was being intensely vocal about "freedom of speech" and "civil rights." Simpson stepped between the officers and the activist and was immediately placed in a headlock which she squirmed out of and then started to back away. With the attention of the officers on her, she was quickly handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car. She was released shortly after and received a citation for disorderly conduct.
As a member of the Occupy Duluth movement, Simpson realizes that avoiding contact with law enforcement may be easier said than done. "I don't intend to obviously go out and be hysterical around cops or do anything illegal by any means but there's such an unpredictable atmosphere sometimes in those situations. I wasn't planning on anything like that happening," said Simpson.
Simpson feels that the newly created Duluth Citizen Review Board will help when it comes to interactions with law enforcement on issues where free speech and people's right to assemble is concerned. "When these things come up in the future, where does the line between free speech and civil disobedience lie? There are other people who want to make formal complaints about how things were handled that day, so it goes beyond me," said Simpson.
The City of Duluth is currently accepting applications for those interested in being on the Citizen Review Board. Applicants will have to live or work in Duluth and employees of the City are not eligible. Applications are available on the City of Duluth website or can be obtained at the City Clerk's office located at 411 West First St., Room 330. Applications must be submitted by August 10.