This past December, Twin Cities DSA voted overwhelmingly to join the East Phillips Urban Farm fight as part of its 2023 campaign priorities and policy platform. Residents of East Phillips and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) have been working for years to convert the Roof Depot building into an urban farm, solar array, market, worker-training program, and more.
In contrast, Minneapolis plans to demolish the building—which sits on an arsenic plume—and put the city’s water yard there, which would add hundreds of diesel trucks polluting the area daily. East Phillips is already over-polluted, with asthma rates twice the state average. The risk of demolition dispersing the arsenic is real, and the trucks would compound already too-high pollution. This slideshow provides an excellent overview.
While the struggle has gone on for years, it is at a critical juncture now, as the city plans to begin demolition of the building as early as February. In joining this fight, Twin Cities DSA is committing to a struggle against environmental racism, racial capitalism, and the dangerous direction Minneapolis leaders are pushing us toward.
After the murder of George Floyd, young Black leaders of this city spurred a galvanizing multiracial Uprising that said No. Abolish the police. This remains a concrete demand with moral clarity and deep rage, grounded in the profound rejection of the core of the American project: anti-Black, anti-Brown, anti-Indigenous plunder and genocide the world over.
What followed was the rabid and naked violence of the cops. It was, perhaps, an intense instance of “imperial boomerang”—fascist violence coming back home. It also represented one future before us, the fascist state that co-chair Kip H. warns about in his great piece “The Dangers Ahead.”
At the same time, something else was happening. For a brief moment in the summer of 2020—sustained by all-too-brief federal COVID-19 relief—a better world was here in the Twin Cities. Mutual aid blossomed, neighbors opened themselves up to others, and a social imagination of what could be began to take root. It was too short, it was not perfect, but it held seeds of another world.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and his band of supporters and enablers continue to push us toward a future of fascist capitalism. We must fight this with everything we have. We must say No.
In contrast, communities all over are pushing for the other future, and this future we must fight for—and we must fight alongside those communities.
The folks of East Phillips and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute are one of those communities. They are pushing for the other future, a better one. They have a radically democratic, ecosocialist vision that could happen right here. It also resonates with the abolitionist principles articulated by Ruth Wilson Gilmore in this great interview by Beatrice Adler-Bolton on the Death Panel podcast. And this December, our chapter voted overwhelmingly to join their fight. We said yes.
I urge you all to join me in this fight and throw down with East Phillips. This is not just a fight for just those who live in East Phillips, though they certainly are on the front lines. This is about all of Minneapolis, the Twin Cities, and beyond.
Here are just a few reasons why:
1) The city concentrates its pollution in neighborhoods like East Phillips. This accomplishes the whiplash of neglect and gentrification. By divesting and polluting in concentrated places, the city opens up other areas to real estate developers. Down the line, however, developers can target depreciated areas such as East Phillips for gentrification and displacement. By opposing the demolition of the Roof Depot and supporting the Urban Farm, we fight not just for East Phillips residents but the whole city.
2) Our three endorsed Minneapolis council members have close connections to this fight. The Roof Depot lies in Jason Chavez’s ward, and Chavez, Aisha Chughtai, and Robin Wonsley have been the only steady supporters of EPNI in city council. This is an opportunity to strengthen our relationships with both our endorsed electeds and their constituents. Down the road, that will also help pave the way for strong relationships with future endorsed electeds.
3) This fight is an opportunity to deepen our experience engaging in multiracial solidarity. I cannot think of more important work. By working across difference, we can build lasting community in East Phillips. These relationships can help working-class communities of color build even more power for the fights to come.
4) The fight is at a tipping point right now. City council will likely vote this month on a company for demolition. The city plans to begin demolition as early as February.
We need your help: here are a bunch of ways to get involved. We need people to show up for the council meeting, reach out to council members and other elected officials, spread the word about the fight, and door knock in East Phillips — particularly Spanish and Somali speakers.
Would you be down for any of this? Reach out here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Connor S