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Minneapolis city council majority votes for environmental racism

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Minneapolis, MN – Over 100 protesters rallied at a Minneapolis City Council meeting on Thursday, January 26, where the city council members voted 7 to 6 to demolish the Roof Depot building. Protesters, called to action by East Phillips Neighborhood Institute and Climate Justice Committee, demanded a “no” vote on the demolition of the building, as it is currently trapping an arsenic plume underground, keeping it out of the air of the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The city has no publicly stated remediation plan for managing any arsenic release by demolition. This would render previous efforts by the EPA’s Emergency Response Branch to replace 600 properties’ arsenic-contaminated topsoil in vain. Additionally, once they demolish the Roof Depot, the city plans to use the space as a refueling station for the city’s diesel trucks, which would double or even triple the pollution from heavy vehicle traffic in one of the most heavily polluted neighborhoods of Minnesota. 

East Phillips is one of the city’s poorest communities, populated by majority working-class and oppressed nationality people. The neighborhood has some of the worst air quality in Minneapolis, causing 12% of the population in the neighborhood to have asthma. Council members who favored demolition recognized these facts, but expressed their intent to vote in favor of a demolition that would deepen environmental racism in Minneapolis. Protesters carried banners with slogans expressing key demands of the community, “Defend East Phillips” and “Urban farm, not toxic harm” to ensure that the city council had no illusions how they should vote on the question of demolition.

Council members favoring the demolition, recognizing the strength and unity of the defenders of East Phillips, attempted to abuse city council procedures to prevent the community from voicing their demands. Over 100 people showed up in opposition to the demolition, and in response, the city council president limited the number of people in the meeting to 33. The community responded by chanting “Let them in,” both in the council meeting and outside of the chamber. The folks from East Phillips understood that the Minneapolis city council would stoop to underhanded tricks and had prepared to coordinate actions in this manner.

Despite the overwhelming opposition from East Phillips, the Minneapolis city council voted to demolish the Roof Depot building. Having anticipated that climate injustice would be the likely result, East Phillips Neighborhood Institute (EPNI) and Climate Justice Committee (CJC) and their supporters have already planned more actions to stop demolition.

Defend East Phillips! Stop the demolition!


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