The Roof Depot site in south Minneapolis includes a vacant warehouse. Credit: Ben Hovland | Sahan Journal

I was excited when I heard Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s anti-racist public promises after the 2020 uprisings in reaction to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

But if you’re thinking of congratulating the City of Minneapolis on their anti-racist efforts during Black History Month, don’t. I am angered to see how Mayor Frey and the Minneapolis establishment continue to sacrifice the well-being of Native, Black, Brown, and socioeconomically oppressed residents. 

In predominantly white neighborhoods, warehouses get renovated into artist lofts or farmers markets. However, in East Phillips, a community predominantly of color that experiences the state’s worst pollution and asthmatic rates already, the city bought out the Roof Depot warehouse from under the community with the hopes of building a high-traffic, heavily-polluting maintenance yard for city vehicles. 

The vacant warehouse sits on a 7.5-acre site located at E. 28th Street and Longfellow Avenue. 

After community members and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute advocated for years against demolishing the warehouse, which sits over a former arsenic superfund site, the City Council voted 7-6 on January 26 to raze the building, further putting East Phillips in harm’s way. 

In contrast, the concerned East Phillips community pooled together resources to design and fund an indoor Urban Farm as an alternative for the space. This renovation would grow fresh food for the neighborhood, provide solar energy, enact co-operative ownership, contain classrooms, and offer a safe and green place to gather. But most importantly, the urban farm plan would use the existing warehouse structure and keep the arsenic underground and out of the air.

Votes to delay demolition included council members Elliott Payne, Ward 1 Robin Wonsley, Ward 2; Jeremiah Ellison, Ward 5; Jamal Osman, Ward 6; Jason Chavez, Ward 9; and Aisha Chugtai, Ward 1). 

Votes to approve demolition included council members Michael Rainville, Ward 3; LaTrisha Vetaw, Ward 4; Lisa Goodman, Ward 7; Andrea Jenkins, Ward 8; Emily Koski, Ward 11; Andrew Johnson, Ward12; and Linea Palmisano, Ward 13. 

The city is attempting to thwart a ready-to-implement plan created by East Phillips residents for that warehouse, a plan that would create economic equity, affordable housing, fresh food, a vibrant market, and green jobs—a plan that meets all of the city’s public antiracism commitments. But it looks like Minneapolis is preparing to abandon its Black, Indigenous, and  residents of color once again. 

It’s utterly disappointing that the mayor’s empty proclamations had me so fooled that the city was serious about restorative justice. The city plans to begin demolition at the end of February, but we still have a chance to prevent demolition with people power if we come together right now.

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Maxime is a community worker, social researcher, and communications volunteer who is passionate about supporting Native People defending their land, air, and water. She has an Environmental Justice graduate...