MnDOT Clears Largest Homeless Encampment in Minneapolis

Luís Escobar, staff writer

Last week on Wednesday, Jan. 18, residents of the largest homeless encampment in Minneapolis had to witness the destruction of their homes. This was only a short time after a shooting had occurred within their community and a few weeks after the destruction of the Quarry Encampment in a Minneapolis shopping center. The day of the eviction, there was a severe weather warning, and residents had no guaranteed shelter from the elements.

The encampment was located just across the Cedar-Riverside light-rail station on 15th Avenue and 6th Street, right next to I-94. It contained around 80 tents total and over 100 unhoused residents. Tuesday morning, Jan. 17, residents of the encampment were met with a 24 hour eviction notice mandated by Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) stapled along various tents to leave the area by 9 a.m. the following morning. For many residents, 24 hours was not enough time to move all of their belongings, nor was it enough time to get the word out across the city.

A fatal shooting occurred only a week beforehand, in which 27-year-old Adnan Mohammed Ali was killed. As a response, City Council Member, Jamal Osman, had demanded that the state work with the city to take action towards the encampment. MnDOT spokesperson, Jake Loesch, had stated in response, “MnDOT has always maintained that highway right-of-way is not a safe place for human beings to live,” thus leading to a plan to completely shut down the Cedar-Riverside encampment.

According to MPR news, many have drawn parallels to the recent destruction of Cedar-Riverside to the destruction of the Quarry Encampment on Dec. 27, 2022. Police were attempting to force the residents off of the Quarry encampment despite no reported grievances being made by the local community. The encampment has since been removed. 

Local organizations reached out to support all the residents that were devastated by this event. On Wednesday, Jan. 18, various individuals and organizations attempted to come together in an effort to prevent the destruction of the encampment, but state troopers, police and bulldozers had already swarmed the area. At around 8 a.m., state troopers and other enforcement officials had begun to enter the encampment area, tearing open tents with knives to force residents out. Unlike other encampment sweeps and evictions that are usually handled by hiring private divisions, this sweep was entirely done by state and county employees. 

MnDOT stated that they would try to aid the displaced residents by finding shelters across Minneapolis. The success of these actions has yet to be reported. Various mutual aid organizations around the city of Minneapolis, such as Northside Mutual aid and volunteers from Sanctuary Supply Depot, attempted to organize enough protests to prevent the eviction of the encampment, but 24 hours was not enough time. Organizers could not gather proper materials, the spread of the news was slow and sudden and ultimately the best they could do was help residents move their belongings to avoid having them bulldozed and/or thrown in a landfill. Collective action across the city is what these residents are depending on for support now that the encampment is gone.