The fight to prevent the demolition of the Roof Depot building and to prevent the City of Minneapolis from installing a polluting truck yard and diesel fueling station in East Phillip continues, and the last two weeks have shown that the momentum is strong!
In the week leading up to the originally planned demolition date of February 27, 2023, community members and organizers from East Phillips and Little Earth went to great lengths to demonstrate their commitment to preventing the demolition of the building and to realizing their alternate vision for an urban farm. Actions included a peaceful occupation of the Depot site by indigenous elders at the onset of a blizzard (which was broken up by a large police force), a powerful press conference by leaders at the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC), and an appreciable showing at City Hall where two progressive councilmembers brought forward resolutions related to the city’s plan (which were both rejected by the council).
The resolve the community demonstrated was rewarded—at the end of the week, a Hennepin County judge issued a last-minute injunction that paused demolition of the building for a minimum of two weeks while the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) pursues their legal case in the court of appeals. It was a whirlwind of a week! You can read about those events in more detail in our last newsletter and in another TCDSA member submission.
While the injunction was a huge step forward in the fight, community members and leaders recognized that a prolonged delay in the court case could also work in favor of the powers that be by destroying momentum and creating a lull in the movement, so the community kept moving.
Community leaders organized an anti-demolition block party and mutual aid festival at Cedar Field Park on Sunday February 26, just two days after the injunction was issued. Hundreds of people turned out to show solidarity with the residents of East Phillips and Little Earth. The afternoon was filled with joy, community, and camaraderie. In addition to hearing speeches from community members and leaders in the fight, there was music, free food, a mutual aid/free table with various good for anyone in need, dancing, laughter, and a lot of great signs (some in the shape of produce) promoting the community vision, an urban farm that could help bring residents a healthier and happier future.
A week later, the campaign was still in full force as community members, coalition partners, and general supporters gathered at a community march and rally organized by the Climate Justice Committee (CJC). Supporters convened on the Sabo Bridge and held up signs of support on the overpass for travelers on Hiawatha Avenue to see. After opening remarks from a few speakers including an indigenous community member and CJ from CJC, the crowd marched to the site of the Roof Depot where they heard more fiery speeches from residents Nicole Perez and Joe Vital, community leaders in the struggle.
Nicole talked about how far the movement had come in recent weeks and how the momentum had shifted when indigenous elders occupied the Depot in the days leading up to the originally-scheduled demolition day. She reiterated her frustration with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and with the Minneapolis City Council members who haven’t heard her out.
Joe Vital spoke about how the many threads of resistance and organizing that supporters had engaged in (including direct action, mutual aid, electoral efforts, legislative work, and marches and rallies) had together been effective in the fight and helped the community capture the momentum over the last few weeks. He also had sharp words for city leadership and highlighted the need to hold them accountable. Vital reminded the crowd that the city council has the power to vote to stop the project and have not only insisted on pushing it forward, but are now disgustingly creating narratives that smear community members and supporters of the cause.
At the corner of Longfellow Avenue and 27th Street, the procession stopped once more to hear a few more speeches by representatives from other coalition partners like Health Professionals for a Healthy Climate, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, and the Minnesota Immigrant Movement.
Marching past the Depot site underscored just how much the community is fighting against. Supporters walked by Bituminous Roadways (which is situated across the street from the Depot site), a source of pollution in the neighborhood and a reminder of the ongoing environmental racism that has plagued the community. And while walking on the road outside the Depot, it was striking to see that a new physical barrier had been erected on the site. It turns out that after the cops broke up the peaceful occupation of the site not two weeks prior, they had installed a second ring of fencing around the site and covered it with Warning/No Trespassing signs, a physical representation of how hell-bent the city is on excluding residents from making decisions about their future and of the fact that the city is happy to mobilize their forces like the police to uphold the future they want to impose.
The march ended at Cedar Field Park where Rachel Thunder, Diana of the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee (MIRAC), and Mike Forcia of the American Indian Movement (AIM) Patrol Minneapolis offered their thoughts to close off the event. Rachel thanked everyone for their support and for standing together across race, culture, and communities as human beings. She reminded people of the years-long fight they’d already been engaged in around the Depot and contextualized it in the much-longer systemic oppression of indigenous people dating back to colonization. She reminded supporters that it was all of their actions and organizing of the years and weeks prior that meant that the Depot building was still standing that afternoon. Finally, she urged everyone to continue engaging in the fight and to keep the momentum going.
Check out this small slideshow of photos from the February 26 and March 5 events.
During these last few weeks, TCDSA members have worked to help do just that, helping to support and sustain the cause and showing solidarity with the East Phillips community, Little Earth, EPNI, and other partners. For the February 26 event, the Streets Corps Working Group coordinated a snow shoveling effort to clear the ground for the block party in Cedar Field Park. For the March 5 event, a few of our members provided marshaling support and mutual aid support (via a mobile mutual aid station for the duration of the march). Other members also partnered with the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) to host a forum in support of the community with prominent leaders from the Twin Cities. We’ve had many members working in coalition with the people and organizations listed above in various capacities and, of course, we’ve been glad to see many TCDSA members showing up to these many events and actions to show their support.
For those new to the fight, here are some resources to get you up to speed:
- Some recent pieces from TCDSA members about the issue
- EPNI Website
- Defend the Depot Website
- EPNI Farm Linktree
As for what’s next, we’ll be following the lead of leaders from East Phillips and Little Earth as the situation evolves. You can check this call to actions document that is updated daily.
When East Phillips is under attack, what do we do? STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!
By Cynthia M