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Conflict over future of Minneapolis industrial site comes to a head

Despite intense snowfall, residents of the East Phillips neighborhood caravanned from the Little Earth community center to the Minneapolis City Hall to protest the demolition of the Roof Depot Thursday morning. The Phillips neighborhood wishes to turn the Roof Depot site into a community farm, the city wishes to use the space to expand public works and water utility areas.

Dozens of people showed up to sit in on a Minneapolis City Council meeting; 30 people were allowed in.

“Any BIPOC member sitting on… the council should be ashamed,” Ojibwe Elder Joleen Jones said. “They should be ashamed that they aren’t doing more to defend us.”

Protestors in the meeting questioned whether council members would vote for the demolition if it was happening in their wards. They also demanded that protestors barred from entering the room be allowed in. As the city council meeting began, chants of “let us in'' and “stop the demo now” could be heard from the hallway.

Councilmember Chavez added an amendment to rescind and terminate the demolition of the Roof Depot and return the land to the East Phillips community. The final vote ended with six ayes and six nays, not enough to pass. Protestors cursed those council members who voted nay. Those who voted to end the demolition included Counclimembers Jamal Osman, Robin Wonsley, Jason Chavez, Elliot Payne, Aisha Chugtai and Jeremiah Ellison.

“I would ask you not to put a price on Black and Brown and Native Lives.” Councilmember Wonsley said.

After the meeting, protestors marched through the Minneapolis City Hall to Mayor Jacob Frey’s office. They demanded that he speak to their elders about how he “does not work for the people, but for money.” Frey did not come out of his office.

Video provided by a Facebook live by Rachel Thunder.

The Minneapolis City Council compromised with protestors on Oct. 8 and gave three acres of the 7.5 acre property to the East Phillips community. Protestors said that the compromise does not address the main point; the destruction of the Roof Depot “will poison our community.”

“American Indian people in the Phillips neighborhood suffer from the poorest health outcomes and highest rate of health disparities in the state of Minnesota,” Marisa Miakonda Cummings, the CEO of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, said. “It is a well-documented fact that communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately impacted by polluting and lax regulation of these industries. The city of Minneapolis and the actions it’s taken throughout the years have reinforced this fact.”

Earlier this week, Minneapolis police swiftly moved in and “raided” the Nenoocaasi camp, which was set up on the Roof Depot property as a ceremonial and peaceful protest of the demolition. Eight people were arrested.

“There is no trespassing on stolen land,” Rachel Thunder, a resident of the south Minneapolis community and member of the Little Earth protectors, said.

Thunder said that police did not read rights to those arrested, who were charged with misdemeanor trespassing. Thunder said the order for the raid came from Mayor Jacob Frey’s office.

This week’s confrontation is just the latest in a years-long battle to stop the demolition of the Roof Depot, as protestors of the demolition say the destruction will release arsenic into the air. The Minneapolis city website defines the area around the Roof Depot as a “green zone,” a group of neighborhoods with high levels of pollution and economic and racial marginalization.


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