Olivia Allery, staff writer
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) evicted a homeless encampment located in Peavey Field Park in September. This eviction was the first in the MPRB’s plan to have a total clearing of all homeless encampments throughout the city. The Peavey Park encampment was bulldozed, causing thousands of dollars worth of property damages and loss of possessions for the residents of the camp. During this eviction, the residents were met with a SWAT team where five eviction defenders were arrested and two were pepper sprayed.
Seven individuals were evicted from the camp on Oct. 19. Multiple organizations took action, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN), Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and Zakat, Aid and Charity Assisting Humanity (ZACAH). These organizations filed a class action lawsuit against the MPRB, Hennepin County, the City of Minneapolis and the local law enforcement for the violation of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights. The lawsuit includes the violation of fourth and fourteenth amendment rights under the U.S. constitution, along with violation of rights underneath the Minnesota Constitution and common law.
The MPRB defended their actions in a public statement on the lawsuit, claiming that the eviction was a “last resort” of trying to disband the encampment after issuing many warnings that the plaintiffs should leave the camp. The class action lawsuit document tells a different story, stating the defendants failed to give a clear answer of when this eviction was set to happen.
The plaintiffs were not prepared to leave and had to hurry to gather their possessions as police taped off the area. Police crossed off the encampment with yellow tape and stated that anyone who crossed the line would be arrested. The plaintiffs were not able to retrieve important possessions such as tents, blankets, medications, clothes, family photos and important documents like birth certificates and medical assistance applications. The lawsuit explains that, in many cases, these possessions were all the plaintiffs had. It seems this use of force by law enforcement has not only traumatized the homeless residents but has led to the question of where these individuals are expected to go next.
Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and ACLU-MN are asking for the federal courts to stop these unlawful sweeps of homeless encampments until there is adequate housing to replace the encampments being removed from parks and recreational areas. This action is all the more urgent given the concern of the approaching winter weather being too much for tent encampments to handle.
The Minnesota Sanctuary Movement has also been advocating for Hennepin County and the city to turn some funds over to the development of affordable housing. While no official legislation has been passed, there has been a pause on evictions for the coming days while negotiations are happening. As for the plaintiffs, ZACAH has been able to provide temporary housing options in hotels and apartments and some have already moved into other encampments around the city.