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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Thursday May 23rd 2024

Free Leonard Peltier After 48 years and City to Demolish Roof Depot After 9 Year Community Opposition

Indigenous relatives and elders, East Phillips neighbors, and allies set up Camp Nenoocaasi at the Roof Depot site at sunrise on Tuesday, February 22. The peaceful camp was cleared by Minneapolis police that evening during the beginning of the winter storm. Several Roof Depot protectors were arrested. Photo Credit: Steve Sandberg
Little Earth resident Nicole Perez confronts Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey at the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives Rally on February 14 at East Phillips Park. She told Frey “Stop pretending to care about our children, give us our land back and we will use it in a good way to protect our children.” Photo Credit: Rachel Thunder


On February 6th there were two rallies at Hennepin County Government Center and City Hall. First to demand Leonard Peltier’s release from 48 years in a maximum security prison. Then followed a protest regarding the city’s plan to demolish the Roof Depot building so the city can build its Hiawatha Expansion with hundreds of employees, city vehicles and diesel trucks creating more traffic related air pollution (TRAP).

Nicole Perez, Little Earth resident, noted that there are 221 units at Little Earth with over 2000 people living there, many who are children and elders with asthma. Perez says “I’m fighting for my granddaughter. We have a farm plan for the site that the youth designed, but we’re not gonna be able to eat the food and our kids won’t be able to play outside if arsenic contaminated soil is again released into our community. We’re saying please don’t do this. Remember, we don’t have the financial resources to just move away. The city said no to delaying the demolition of the Roof Depot but I’m not gonna stop fighting.”

East Phillips residents, East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, and their supporters are protesting the ruling of Minnesota State Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Frisch, who has ruled that the City’s environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) is adequate. And in turn, District Court Judge Edvard Wahl has ruled against granting an injunction that would halt the demolition until arguments are heard in court. This clears the way for the city to tear down/demolish the Roof Depot building that the city says will begin on February 27, 2023.

What then about the 2008 Clark – Berglin Environmental Justice law, which mandates cumulative levels assessment for projects in this neighborhood, specifically within a half mile radius of the epicenter of the EPA arsenic superfund site? Neither ruling mentions it. Lawyer Miles Ringsred of the EPNI legal defense team says that it is one of the grounds by which they have petitioned to have the Frisch ruling reviewed by the state Supreme Court. They have also filed a motion for an injunction to stay demolition pending the appeal. Depending on the results of these appeals, as well as the results of planned demonstrations seeking a new city council vote, active demolition of the Roof Depot building may be occurring by the time you read this.

Says state representative Karen Clark, “The continuing pattern of environmental injustice in East Phillips is heartbreaking. They don’t care and they won’t admit that they will add to the high levels of asthma that already exist, adding to the pain and suffering in our community. Also there is no transparency in this process. We have no idea what exactly the city is planning for this site. They presented it to the park board but not the community who is affected the most.”

The ongoing fight to protect especially children and elders with asthma from existing environmental injustice is never ending. The superfund arsenic soil cleanup effort was scary and exhausting. As hazmat protected workers moved contaminated soil from east Phillips not long ago, residents were told to stay off soils. How will this be possible for children playing in parks or when mowing and raking with the arsenic soil disrupted from the roof dept demolition? How will we protect children and elders from asthma with increasing levels of diesel fumes from more city vehicles in Phillips polluting our air?

Steve Sandberg is on the board of the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute.

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