Protests Delay Roof Depot Demolition, Injunction Granted
PhFence outside Roof Depot at the corner of Longfellow Ave and E 28th St. on March 1 taken by Olivia Allery
Olivia Allery, news editor
Protesters are celebrating a small victory this past week, as the plan of demolition of the Roof Depot, located in the East Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis, was postponed from its original date of Feb. 28. A Hennepin County judge, Edward Wahl, granted a temporary injunction of the demolition on Friday, Feb. 24, essentially putting a two week restraining order on the demolition. Despite this small victory, there have still been many hurdles for protestors, members of EPNI and residents of the neighborhood.
The Roof Depot is a non-functioning warehouse located in an area of buildings in East Phillips that has had a long history of prolonged crop pesticide processing and transporting, which has left the soil underneath contaminated with high levels of arsenic. The plant has been closed down since 1968, and a 50,000-ton soil cleanup was carried out in 2007. Despite these efforts, high levels of arsenic still remain in the soil due to the plant’s prolonged pesticide processing, according to the Sahan Journal.
The city of Minneapolis plans to turn the site into another building and truck yard for the Department of Public Works, bringing more traffic and air pollution to the neighborhood. According to MinnPost, the East Phillips neighborhood has seen pollution related health concerns increasing in its residents. General trends of increased rates of asthma and heart problems caused by air pollution has brought up serious concerns for plans both for and after the demolition. The EPNI was instead advocating for an urban farm and community center to be built as an alternative to the Roof Depot demolition.
The EPNI and residents of the Little Earth Nation have been fighting back against demolition plans. The Sahan Journal reported that prior to Wahl’s injunction ruling, a day-long occupancy camp had formed at the base of the Roof Depot on Feb. 21, a week before the demolition date. This camp was led mainly by Little Earth residents as well as members of the American Indian Movement. This occupancy camp was met that same night with a police force of 90 officers ready to take the camp down, and six protestors were arrested in the process.
The following Thursday, after the occupancy camp was broken up, Little Earth residents and protesters went to the city council meeting, continuing to put pressure on the city to stop the demolition. According to the Sahan Journal, Jason Chavez, East Phillips’ city council member, proposed a motion during this meeting to cancel the demolition, which failed due to a tied 6-6 vote between the council. After this, the public was cleared from the chambers after chants of “Native Lives Matter” filled the room from the protestors. Chavez proposed another motion after the council reconvened, which failed as well.
The demolition seemed to be set in stone for the East Phillips neighborhood, however Judge Wahl granted a 2 week injunction of the site, postponing the demolition. According to the Sahan Journal, this ruling will allow the lawyers of the EPNI to file emergency appeals with the court, in an effort to get the urban garden project secured. Wahl’s has requested that the EPNI pay a $10,000 bond to cover the cost for the demolition delay.
With the injunction, there are both feelings of victory and pressure for East Phillips protestors as they gear up to continue the fight for the Roof Depot in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The new date for demolition is set for mid-March. As of March 2, EPNI’s gofundme page dedicated to all their legal expenses – including the aforementioned $10,000 bond – has raised $106,211 with a goal of $160,000. To find their donation page, visit: tinyurl.com/depotfund