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MN Legislature settles Roof Depot dispute

The Minnesota legislature is sending money to Minneapolis to settle a years-long dispute about the Roof Depot site. A final vote on the measures happened Monday night.

Residents of the East Phillips neighborhood have long said the demolition of the former warehouse would release toxins into the air, and that they feared for the community's health if the city moved forward with turning the site into a public works facility.

The tension came to a head when activists staged a sit-in at the site to prevent its demolition, and were forcibly evicted by police. They then caravanned to Minneapolis city hall, where they sat in on a vote that could stop the demolition.

That vote failed, with six council members in support and six council members opposed.

After the vote, councilmember Robin Wonsley said “I would ask you not to put a price on Black and brown and Native lives.”

The tension between the activists and city hall drew the attention of the State legislature, which proposed granting $4.5 million from the public works budget to the city to consider a different site, and $2 million to help the activists pay for the Roof Depot, which they say they want to convert into a community farm.

However, the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute still must pay the city for $16.7 million in pre-demolition work that had already been completed. The EPNI must pay $3.7 million by Sept. 8.

Both the city and the activists say they consider this a victory. The Minneapolis city website defines the area around the Roof Depot as a “green zone,” a group of neighborhoods with high levels of pollution and economic and racial marginalization.

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