Parks superintendent: Efforts to remove encampment near Minneapolis school stymied by protesters

A homeless encampment at another Minneapolis Park, Powderhorn, grew to an estimated 560 tents by July 9, 2020, according to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. (FOX 9)

The Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent says attempts to remove an encampment near a school has been stymied by protest groups and that disbanding the camp is growing more urgent. 

Superintendent Al Bangoura addressed the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, noting that Hope Academy, located on the same block as Peavey Park, went back to school Wednesday with the encampment still active.

The Minneapolis Parks Department is trying to reduce the number of parks with temporary encampments to 20 and currently sits at 21. In early August, 44 parks had encampments.

The encampments within school zones were identified as those the city hoped to remove, so, on Aug. 10, the parks department gave notices to vacate to approximately 12 tents in Peavey Park. In the coming days, Hennepin County and park staff went on site to offer assistance to move the inhabitants.

Two days later, on Aug. 12, about 100 protesters arrived at Peavey Park hoping to keep the encampment intact.

Bangoura says a park staff member was “attacked” by protesters that day, with some climbing onto his vehicle and equipment.

“We have deescalated and backed away from conflict during a time in the city of ongoing civil unrest,” said Bangoura Wednesday.

Since, the camp has grown to 30 tents, some of which the parks department believes are advocates and protesters staying at the site.

Those protesters, Bangoura says, are making a peaceful disbandment of the park difficult. He said law enforcement will be used as a “last resort,” but that the Minneapolis Sanctuary Movement and other advocates have “created a challenging situation for the school and families who attend the school.”

During his remarks Wednesday, Bangoura said the need to move those experiencing homelessness into shelter spaces is “becoming critical” as winter nears and because park campsites are at the parks department’s determined capacity.