MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - The City of Minneapolis has dropped charges against three protesters who were arrested during a brief occupation of the city’s controversial Roof Depot site in the Little Earth neighborhood in February.
Several protesters were detained the night of Monday, Feb. 21 when Minneapolis police moved to end an occupation begun by activists to block a planned demolition of the site. Protesters filmed as police moved in. The footage captures activists questioning why an officer had drawn his gun.
On Monday, the city confirmed that the charges for the three cases referred to the City Attorney’s Office had been dismissed. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office also said they were also not handling any ongoing cases related to the Roof Depot protests.
Kirsten "Kay" Lerohl, a scientist and an activist with the Climate Justice Committee, was one of the activists arrested and charged with trespassing on Feb. 21. She said the City Attorney’s office had informed her the case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.
In her view, the arrests were meant to send a message.
"They're trying to bring down the hammer on things like this because they know they're in the wrong. City officials just want to paint us in a bad light. And I and I think this reflects that," she told FOX 9.
The Roof Depot is a 230,000 square-foot warehouse that sits on a former arsenic Superfund site. The city bought the building in 2016 and wants to turn it into a public works facility for water maintenance trucks. Community groups have other visions for the site, including an urban farm.
The Feb. 21 occupation, which included a tipi, several tents, and a fire, occurred when the city had planned to begin demolition of the site to allow for construction of the public works facility. Residents of East Phillips and Little Earth, as well as activists with The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, the American Indian Movement, and the Climate Justice Committee demanded the city hand over control of the site to the community, and enact a moratorium on encampment evictions.
Two days after police cleared the occupation, activists disrupted a City Council meeting after a proposal to cancel the demolition failed to pass. The following week, on Feb. 27, a court issued a temporary restraining order halting the demolition while the battle over the future of the site continues in court.
City officials have since reiterated that they are willing to sell the site to EPNI, if the group can raise $16.7 million, which is the amount the city has spent from a state fund on the site so far.
While the court battle drags on, Lerohl said activists are doing what they can to keep the issue in the public eye.
"We want to keep the pressure on, and want to keep this in the public eye and make sure that they know that we're not just going to roll over and forget about this whole thing, because the more immediate threat of the demolition isn’t in our face right now," she said.