Mpls Park Board homeless encampment evictions lawsuit to continue, judge rules

Grappling with a longtime debate that only intensified during the pandemic, a federal court judge ruled today a lawsuit brought against the Minneapolis Parks and Rec Board (MPRB) on behalf of people who lost their homes during tent encampment sweeps will proceed.

The ACLU of Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and Ballard Spahr’s lawsuit are spearheading the lawsuit on behalf of those evicted during sweeps the MPRB conducted to clear the encampments due to safety concerns from surrounding residents. 

The lawsuit filed in October of 2020 against Hennepin County, the city of Minneapolis, MPRB and officials in those agencies alleges, "the city and county violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and others living in the parks by destroying encampments. Giving little or no notice, law enforcement bulldozed people’s shelters, throwing away personal belongings including identification cards, clothing and sleeping bags."

The MPRB had asked the judge to partially dismiss the lawsuit, but U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright claims to move ahead that MPRB unlawfully seized and destroyed the plaintiffs’ property in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and their state constitutional equivalents. 

The judge also found that the allegations were sufficient to show an official policy by the MPRB to systematically destroy homeless people’s property in violation of the Constitution.

"This ruling means we get to continue fighting for the people who were living in tents in Minneapolis parks and had to watch helplessly as their belongings including blankets, important papers and keepsakes - and their homes - were destroyed," said Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid staff attorney Rebecca Stillman in a statement.