Protesters occupy Roof Depot, demand Minneapolis call off demolition plans

[anvplayer video=”5164111″ station=”998122″]

Minneapolis police are in the process of clearing protesters who set up camp Tuesday at the Roof Depot site in the city’s East Phillips neighborhood.

The former warehouse at the intersection of 28th Street East and Longfellow Avenue is slated for demolition on Monday, and protesters are demanding that the city cancel those plans.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS cameras captured a large presence of activists and police Tuesday night.

The building sits atop a reservoir of toxic chemicals, and neighbors are concerned about the environmental impact if the ground is disturbed during demolition. Some local residents have proposed repurposing the building as a community farm.

The East Phillips neighborhood, home to the Indigenous Little Earth housing development, has been zoned for heavy industrial pollution over the last century, according to a news release from Defend the Depot. Activists have said that the pollution caused by the demolition would “further the genocide of Indigenous people.”

“In the ground, there’s a ton of arsenic,” said Mike Forcia, chairman of the American Indian Movement. “If they dig up this land, there’s arsenic. They tear down the building, there’s arsenic. It’s better just to leave it where it is right now, and we can redo the building and we can use it for our community.”

The city responded that the third-party experts it hired found that the building could be demolished with little to no risk to the community.

Minneapolis hopes to use the space to expand its water and sewer maintenance facilities.

The city is working to secure the site, according to a statement sent to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

“This evening, the City moved to secure the property at the Roof Depot site,” a city spokesperson said. “This site is not safe for individuals to congregate at and anyone on the site is trespassing. The City wanted to work swiftly today to move individuals off the premises before the impending snowstorm.”

In another statement, the city wrote:

The condition of the Roof Depot building is unsalvageable and unsafe.There has been no heat or water running in the building for many years. After over a decade of planning, conversations with community, lengthy negotiations, and significant taxpayer investment, the demolition of the building is non-negotiable.

The City can – and will – demolish the building safely. The City hired third party experts – who have decades of experience and have worked in the East Phillips neighborhood – to assess the building and its surroundings, including the soil underneath and around the building.

Those independent experts finalized a Response Action Plan and Construction Contingency Plan (“RAP/CCP”) in August 2022, which subsequently was approved by both the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. They have also determined not only can the building be demolished with little to no risk to the community, but also the site will be cleaner post-demolition than it was before.

A judge, guided by experts in the field, has also ruled and concluded that EPNI failed to show that the City could not do this safely.

There is arsenic under the building, but there is no indication that arsenic is inside the building. Experts have determined that demolition of the building will not impact the arsenic below the ground surface. Continuous monitoring of the site during demolition will allow the City to be responsive to any changing conditions – but all environmental assessments the City has initiated have shown that this process will be safe.

City of Minneapolis