MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - Minneapolis police and city workers cleared a homeless encampment in the area of East 28th Street and Bloomington Avenue, sparking complaints and protests by encampment supporters on social media.
The city issued a statement saying the decision to clear the encampment was made in collaboration with the property owner. The city claimed that from the end of July through the end of September, the city's Homeless Response Team had visited the encampment 27 times, "providing outreach, engagement, storage and shelter options.
"Closing an unsanctioned encampment is not the city’s first course of action. Encampment closure will occur when conditions become dangerous or encampment residents refuse to engage in the services that will change their circumstances," the statement read.
Flannery Clark, 39, has lived in the Corcoran neighborhood for eight years. She said she was biking down the Greenway with her 4-year-old son when police directed her to go the wrong way down 28th Street.
"They told me to go the wrong way on two different streets and told me 'Look, it isn’t a big deal, it's just a couple of blocks of closure," she told FOX 9.
She added she has run into similar scenarios while biking with her son in the area.
"Second encampment sweep we’ve biked into on the preschool run in the past five months. The sweeps are inhumane; these are our neighbors," she said.
A FOX 9 photojournalist observed a city-operated front-end loader clearing tents and debris while more than a dozen officers stood guard.
Police had cordoned off several blocks, and people watched from an overpass on the Greenway. From where the photojournalist was standing by the south side of the operation, the scene seemed peaceful with no visible confrontations.
Several witnesses reported on social media that officers threw away residents' belongings, including clothing and medicine.
Cristin Crabtree, 42, has lived in the Powderhorn neighborhood for the last year and a half, but has lived in the city for most of her life. Crabtree said her ancestors were some of the first families to settle in the area that became Minneapolis and she feels "a deep responsibility to address the impact on the indigenous community" that had been caused by people of her great-grandparents' generation — many of the encampment residents are Native Americans.
"These are my neighbors. I walked over to find people looking for their family members separated from them, without access to ways to fund each other. Peoples' meds, ID’s, their only belongings stolen and thrown into trucks. This is NOT SAFETY. These are my neighbors, and they matter!" she wrote on Twitter.
The regular clearing of encampments has long been a contentious issue in Minneapolis. Some residents have voiced concerns about what they say are the risks encampments pose to their neighborhoods — in July, some residents in the Philips neighborhood blamed an encampment for a fire that destroyed three homes. Encampment supporters, however, say the clearings are inhumane, and the city has not done enough to address the underlying causes for the encampments or find housing for their residents.
In October 2020, The ACLU of Minnesota filed a lawsuit against Hennepin County, the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, saying they had violated the constitutional rights of encampment residents by destroying their tents and other property. The Park Board had asked Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright to dismiss the case, but in August, she ruled the case could continue and allegations were sufficient to show an official policy by the MPRB to systematically destroy homeless people’s property in violation of the Constitution.
The city's full statement is below:
"Today, City crews closed an encampment on private property at 28th & Bloomington in collaboration with the property owner. The City aims to proactively respond to the needs of unsheltered individuals in the City of Minneapolis. In collaboration with partner organizations, street outreach teams, harm reduction workers and Hennepin County staff, our work connects unsheltered residents to services. Encampments are illegal and create tremendous health and safety risks to the unsheltered residents and the surrounding community.
"Through a collaborative cross-departmental and multi-agency effort, we address unsanctioned encampments as well as individual tents. This is informed by best practices, a humancentric focused and driven by data. Closing an unsanctioned encampment is not the City’s first course of action. Encampment closure will occur when conditions become dangerous or encampment residents refuse to engage in the services that will change their circumstances. Notice of trespass and Notice to vacate the premises has posted by the property owner well in advance of disbursement. In addition, the Homeless Response Team provides information to those living at an encampment and connections to services are made before the closure occurs."