This week’s edition covers stories
from February 16th to February 22nd, 2023.
Today’s issue is 1,006 words, a 7.7–minute read
Isabella and Helene talk the East Phillips encampment of the Roof Depot, passing the Restore the Vote Bill, and the approval of Drivers Licenses for All in the MN Senate!
I’ve been following what’s been happening in the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis for the past couple of days. Starting Tuesday night (the 21st), concerned community members and members of the group “Defend the Depot”, a coalition of people from the American Indian Movement, the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, Little Earth Protectors, and other groups campaigning for environmental justice, have been occupying the land of the Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood. They’re concerned about what lies in the soil beneath the Roof Depot site, which is located on what is now known as the “Arsenic Triangle”. This area of Minneapolis has much higher rates of arsenic pollution due to the long term presence of the Reade Manufacturing Company that leased a lot on the corner of 28th Street and Hiawatha Ave between 1938 and 1963. The company processed arsenic to be sold as a pesticide and it was only in the mid 90s during the hiawatha light rail construction that the City of Minneapolis realized how high the levels of arsenic pollution were in the soil.
But back to the present day. The community is concerned that demolition of the Roof Depot would release arsenic into the air – and their neighborhood. The reason the city wants to demolish the building in the first place is to build a new public works facility on the land. And what do East Phillips residents want? In 2014, the East Phillips Improvement Coalition (EPIC) “developed plans to acquire and convert the Roof Depot, a sprawling vacant warehouse, into a year-round organic urban farm with a farmers market, bicycle shop, a youth-led café and affordable housing for low income families” but was blocked when the city acquired the site for $6.8 million after threatening eminent domain if the owner were to sell the property to EPIC. The demolition of the Roof Depot is slated to begin as early as February 27th, which is why protestors began occupying the land this past Tuesday. In a press release, “Defend the Depot” made seven demands of the city:
- Relocate the public works expansion project
- Give the community control of the Roof Depot site
- Fund the indoor urban farm
- Create plans to remove industrial polluters
- A moratorium on evicting homeless encampments
- Invest in programs to support unhoused people
- Fund peer support workers
On Tuesday night (February 21st) at around 7 PM, police began detaining protesters. With the encampment closed off, only time remains to see what will come of the Roof Depot site. That’s all from me this week, readers. I’ll be back next week with some Roof Depot updates.
Happy Thursday readers! Isabella here. The snow storm hit hard in the last couple of days, so I hope you’re safe and cozied up at home.
In local news this week, with the DFL trifecta the Senate is being extremely proactive in passing the bills we’ve waited so long for – often rejected by a Republican controlled Senate. The NewPrensa team visited the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 21 to support the Restore The Vote bill and the Driver’s Licenses for All bill.
The Restore the Vote bill was passed around 7 p.m. by a vote of 35-30. This would give the “right to vote restoration to individuals convicted of a felony upon completion of any term of incarceration imposed and executed by a court for the offense.” Once the incarcerated is released upon completion of their sentence, their voting rights are automatically restored. The ACLU-MN claims that there are about 50,000 Minnesotans barred from voting who belong to BIPOC communities. As ACLU-MN staff attorney David McKinney stated, laws barring felons from their right to vote when they are active contributors to the community is “discriminatory, leading to racial disparities in voting that in turn lead to political inequality.”
“We wrote, we spoke, it’s time to restore the vote.”
We waited seven hours to hear that after 20 years, the Driver’s License for All bill had been approved by the MN Senate by a vote of 34-31. The crowd chanted around the rotunda all night, while meeting rooms filled with local organizations who provided food, snacks and drinks to attendees as we all anxiously waited for the results. People danced and sang, they expressed their fondest sentiments for the fight, and cheered on the senators who had worked so hard to help the communities. Minutes before the announcement, people gathered near the stairs that led to the Senate chamber with signs and bouquets, waiting to thank their senators. For more information on the bill, visit NewPrensa’s article about the House of Representatives’ approval.
All night we had grown tired of hearing the despicable comments on behalf of Republican Senators, who used fear mongering tactics to detract the senate debate and the bill from moving forward. “El Pueblo que lucha, triunfa!” (the people who fight, triumph). Although this is a huge victory for many immigrant communities in Minnesota, this is not the end. They will continue their efforts into passing future bills that benefit the wellbeing of majority Minnesotans.
“El Pueblo Unido, Jamás Será Vencido.” (The People United, Will Never Be Defeated).
That’s all from us, folks!
Remember to listen to this week’s NewMusica as we continue to cultivate NewTaste, NewVibes, just for you.
-Isabella and Helene