Community rallies against environmental racism, opposes Roof Depot demolition
Minneapolis, MN – On Sunday, March 5, residents of the south Minneapolis neighborhood of East Phillips and supporters marched to celebrate community and fight against an environmentally racist project.
The city of Minneapolis, with support from Mayor Jacob Frey, plans to expand its existing public works yard in the neighborhood by demolishing the Roof Depot building. The Roof Depot is a former EPA Superfund site and within the Minneapolis Southside Green Zone, an area identified by the city as having “high levels of environmental pollution” and “racial, political, and economic marginalization.”
The city’s proposed Hiawatha Expansion project would bring an additional 888 diesel trucks through the neighborhood daily to conduct public works tasks that support all of Minneapolis. The majority-oppressed nationality and working-class neighborhood includes Little Earth, the only Indigenous-preference Section 8 rental assistance community in the United States.
East Phillips residents experience asthma, cancer and heart disease rates higher than the population outside this neighborhood and unexplained by family health histories.
Neighborhood residents and supporters from the American Indian Movement, the Climate Justice Committee, East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, grassroots groups fighting for the rights of immigrants and against police brutality, and many others, gathered on a pedestrian bridge to commence the march in acknowledgement of the Native land they seek to protect.
Protesters marched past the Roof Depot building and witnessed the additional concrete and fencing barriers put up by the city after the recent encampment aiming to stop demolition of the building, reminiscent of barriers put up in defense of the Hennepin County Government Center during the trial of Derek Chauvin after the murder of George Floyd.
Despite threats to protesters’ rights and the several police cars now observing the Roof Depot site at all hours of the day, the growing movement refuses to back down, give up, or be intimidated. The 100-plus people gathered on the pedestrian bridge Sunday were joined by additional impromptu marchers as the protest moved past their homes, bringing the crowd to well over 200 people. The caravan included a “Free Store” and “Mutual Aid Mobile.” These transformed into a free-of-charge market when the march reached its destination at a park in Little Earth, where it concluded in song.
The demolition of the Roof Depot has been delayed until the Minnesota Court of Appeals rules on the neighborhood’s case against the city, but the fight for control of the Roof Depot site and for environmental justice in East Phillips is far from over.