American Indian organizations show support for efforts to stop Roof Depot demolition

Mainstream media missing the story: Minneapolis’ hypocrisy

Marissa Cummings speaks at today’s press conference.

More than two dozen Native American organizations showed their support today for an Indigenous-led, non-violent direct action, occupying the Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood. The action was a peaceful and prayerful gathering to highlight neighborhood demands to stop city plans to expand its Public Works yard onto the site. It would bring more traffic and diesel exhaust to an already polluted neighborhood, including the Little Earth of United Tribes housing complex.

A massive police response cleared the occupation last night. The city already has erected concrete barriers to block entrance, MPR reported.

For years, the neighborhood has wanted to redevelop the Roof Depot site into a community-owned asset, with an indoor urban farm, affordable housing, large solar array, and more.

At a press conference today, Marissa Cummings, President and CEO of the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, read letters from the Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) and the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council (MIAC) regarding the Roof Depot controversy.

The MUID letter supported the Urban Farm, a “better, community-led, green initiative” in place of the city’s plans. It would “better mitigate the negative social determinants of health caused by environmental racism,” the letter said. It also denounced “the militaristic actions taken by the Minneapolis Police Department … to dismantle a peaceful and ceremonial occupation at the Roof Depot site.”

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Statements on George Floyd’s murder from Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors, Indigenous Environmental Network

The Metropolitan Urban Indian Directors (MUID) and the Indigenous Environmental Network have both issued statements on the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police, identifying the roots of the problem and ways to get involved.

In a related matter, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz today announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, focusing on discriminatory practices against people of color. Continue reading

Hiawatha encampment: The camp is gone. The problem’s still here

This is the third in a series looking back at the 2018 homeless encampment along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues. Part 1 was Hiawatha encampment: Last year’s tent city is a lesson in unintended consequences. Part 2 was Hiawatha encampment: Lessons learned from last year’s homeless tent city.

Fencing has been erected to prevent a return of a large homeless encampment at Hiawatha and Franklin. (Facing east on Franklin.)

In August of 2018, a large homeless encampment sprung up along Hiawatha and Franklin avenues in south Minneapolis, reaching 150 tents and nearly 200 people. Most of those in the camp were Native American. Indigenous-led nonprofits and government agencies mounted a crisis response. With the help from the Red Lake Nation, it included construction of the Navigation Center, a temporary structure to provide people at the encampment a safe and warm place to sleep during the winter and connections to housing services.

The Navigation Center is closed. The Minnesota Department of Transportation erected fences to prevent people from camping on its right of way at Hiawatha andHiawatha. It posted ‘No Trespassing” signs. The Minnesota Police Department has new policies to intervene early when homeless camps form so they don’t get big.

Yet just because the crisis is no longer visible doesn’t mean there isn’t a crisis.

“The problem is still here,” said Mary LaGarde, executive director of the Minneapolis American Indian Center. “We have people who are out on the streets,” she said. “The opium/heroin epidemic has not gone away.”

The winter cold and snow are back. Here’s a look at questions moving forward. Continue reading