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Report On Minneapolis Police Raid Of ‘Roof Depot’ Occupation

Above photo: @SeanLimMN.

Report on recent Indigenous-led occupation by residents in the East Phillips neighborhood of so-called Minneapolis, MN.

For more information, check out Defend the Depot.

Minneapolis, Minnesota – During the February 19th-26th week of solidarity everywhere to Defend the Welaunee Forest and Stop Cop City, Minneapolis is also fighting a local and connected struggle against toxic harm in the southside East Phillips Neighborhood.

The struggle centers on what is to become of the 7.7 acre lot at 28th Street and Longfellow Ave known for its most recent occupant, Roof Depot. The lot is home to the so-called “arsenic triangle” previously occupied by a pesticide manufacturer, and adjacent to existing major polluters Bituminous Roadways and Smith Foundry. Since at least 2015, grassroots neighborhood groups have sought to convert the area to benefit the community, specifically via an expansive community vision of an Indoor Urban Farm.

They have encountered opposition from city bureaucrats, the City Council, and the courts from then to now, culminating in a 7-6 council vote against the community’s proposal this January. At that council meeting, a contract was approved for Rachel Contracting of St. Michael, MN to go ahead and demolish the Roof Depot warehouse property as soon as February 27th, preparing the lot for a Minneapolis Public Works diesel vehicle lot and fueling station to be put in its place.

Public Works is the agency responsible (with assistance from MPD) for many encampment evictions within the city and has an existing campus adjacent to the Roof Depot site. In April 2022, this campus was attacked and vehicles disabled in retaliation for a militarized encampment eviction.

On Sunday February 19th, a joint Defend East Phillips – Stop Cop City rally was held at the Roof Depot site. Many of the 100+ attendees were from Little Earth, the USA’s largest Native-preference housing project, located one block to the north, and highlighted the active colonialism of an illegitimate government seizing already stolen land both in Welaunee and in Minneapolis to enact further harm on Native communities.

Attendees honored the fallen forest defender Tortuguita as well as those locally who have suffered and died from pollution-related ailments. Speakers talked about the resistance to both the Roof Depot demolition and Cop City, and invited people to participate in both rapid response actions locally as well as in other solidarity actions for Cop City and the fifth Week of Action in Atlanta, March 4th-11th.

Then on Tuesday February 21st, a coalition including members of climate justice orgs, Native groups, East Phillips residents and other autonomous participants occupied the Roof Depot lot in the early morning with a tipi, several tents and a sacred fire. The occupation issued demands that included handing over control of the site to the community, plans to remove the other nearby polluting businesses, and a moratorium on encampment evictions, of which the East Phillips neighborhood has seen dozens in recent years.

However, just after dark that evening, the occupation was raided by up to 100 MPD officers, many in tactical gear, in an operation nearly identical to many recent unhoused encampment evictions. As supporters swarmed to the site, for a moment sparks of militancy in the crowd made it seem as if the police line could be pushed back, however police held their perimeter, cut through the fence and evicted the camp. Eight defenders were captured, but all were soon released – many dropped off at a nearby homeless shelter, though they were not homeless.

These events occurred as snow began to fall at the beginning of a Winter Storm Warning promising a historic snowfall throughout the week across so-called Minnesota. As usual, no extra shelter or warming spaces have been offered by the city to those residing outdoors.

As many people locally and around the continent prepare to head to Atlanta for the upcoming Week of Action, we also root ourselves in local struggles such as this. The struggle around the proposed Urban Farm and the arsenic triangle has attracted a wide array of participants, from liberals merely interested in “green jobs” for the neighborhood, all the way to anarchists and anti-authoritarians interested in the prefigurative politics leading to complete societal transformation. Although this has not always been emphasized in the recent years of activism around the site (which, unfortunately, have centered extensively on making demands of uninterested politicians), we believe that this struggle too lies at the intersections of environmental justice, racial justice, economic justice, and abolition, just as the fight to Stop Cop City does.

The city of Minneapolis’ plans for the site will bring more cops and more pollution to a neighborhood already suffering from far more of both than other whiter and richer areas of the city, just as the Atlanta Police Foundation’s plans will bring more of the same to south Atlanta. And just as businesses supporting the Cop City project have been targeted across the country, so can contractors like Rachel who participate in the colonial project on the Roof Depot site in Minneapolis.

The expansion of “cop cities” everywhere must be resisted everywhere and in tandem – especially in this historical moment when institutions of policing seek to resolidify their legitimacy in the minds of those who so recently and forcefully challenged it with great success.

Supporters can go to DefendTheDepot.com, and follow @defendthedepot on Twitter and Instagram, for updates including a planned block party/community aid event on Sunday, February 26th, and other actions likely to occur. Like the Cop City struggle, at this point this fight is directed by any one group or organization, and individuals and crews should join in the manner they see fit to do so.

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