Residents of a south Minneapolis homeless encampment that was the site of a shooting last month have filed a class action lawsuit against Mayor Jacob Frey, accusing him of “targeting his most vulnerable constituents.”
The East Phillips encampment, known as Camp Nenookaasi, is a “community-based healing camp rooted in Native religious and cultural practices,” according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court by encampment residents Cheryl Sagataw, DeAnthony Barnes, and others.
Minneapolis – SHOOTING inside the encampment.
E 23rd St and 13th Ave S
pssst, the very same encampment where there have been several shootings, shots, a dead baby, overdoses, mountains of trash, and stolen vehicles that was supposed to be evicted on Thursday, but city council… pic.twitter.com/plpPrXKX2U
— CrimeWatchMpls (@CrimeWatchMpls) December 12, 2023
“Defendant Frey is targeting his most vulnerable constituents, not only failing to create a livable city for them through his own policies, but egregiously using his power as Mayor to destroy what safety and stability they have managed to build for themselves. Plaintiffs beg the Court to enjoin him before it is too late,” says the lawsuit.
The city has postponed eviction at least twice but announced last week that it would move forward with the encampment closure on Jan. 4.
“To date, the City of Minneapolis, through a contract with Helix Health and Housing Services and in collaboration with Hennepin County and other community partners, has connected 104 community members at the Nenookaasi encampment with housing or shelter options. Another 14 people are scheduled to move into housing soon,” the city said in a press release. “For months, the City has worked with partners to connect encampment residents to housing, shelter, and services.”
An estimated 150 people are currently living in the encampment, whose organizers maintain that the camp’s “stability and community” have helped camp residents transition into housing.
The city told Fox 9 in a statement Tuesday that it will proceed with eviction despite the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that, since Camp Nenookaasi is home to a large Native American population, the planned eviction is a continuation of “forced displacement of Indigenous peoples by colonizing governments.”
“Systemic and genocidal displacement has typified the relationship between the colonizing governments of Europe, the U.S., and its territorial and subsequent state governments, and Indigenous peoples from the beginning,” says the lawsuit, which was filed by an attorney with the Climate Defense Project.
“Camp Nenookaasi sits on lands taken from the Dakota peoples through deception, bad faith, duress, and threat of violence more than a century ago,” it adds. “It stands in defiance of these ongoing attempts to rid what is now Minneapolis of its original inhabitants, in the face of violent Indigenous displacement that continues today.”
The lawsuit alleges unlawful seizure of the plaintiffs’ property, due process violations, and violations of the Eighth Amendment, which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.”
“The manner in which these evictions are carried out — by armed law enforcement officers under threat of arrest, with residents often pulled out of their tents forcibly, arrested, and even tear-gassed or sprayed with chemical irritants, their belongings bulldozed, destroyed, and trashed — amounts to a penalty, harm, and/or punishment that Defendant Frey and his law enforcement officers impose or threaten to impose for conduct which Plaintiffs cannot avoid,” the lawsuit argues.
It asks the courts to prevent the city from moving forward with eviction “unless and until safe, adequate, culturally appropriate, stable housing can be guaranteed and provided to all residents.” It also asks the courts to declare Mayor Frey’s actions unconstitutional.
As Crime Watch Minneapolis has reported, the encampment has been the site of multiple shootings, shots fired incidents, assaults, and overdoses. A dead “fetus” was found inside the encampment in October. The encampment is located on city-owned property.