Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) held a press conference outside Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey’s house on Oct. 28 to demand a moratorium on all unhoused encampment evictions. The group also held an “encampment protest” outside of Frey’s residence on Oct. 30, along with a supply drive.
“We are here because housing is a human right, and for hundreds of people in this city every day that right is being denied,” said Simeon Aitken, who gave the opening speech at the press conference. “Now more than ever with subzero temperatures only weeks away, unhoused people face literal mortal danger, a danger that will kill people if they don’t have access to housing and basic necessities.
“Now more than ever, strong Mayor Jacob Frey has the power to make immediate changes that would protect the right to housing and save lives but consistently refuses to use it.”
The press conference followed four encampment sweeps in October, including an encampment protest where several unhoused Minneapolis residents set up their tents on the steps of Minneapolis City Hall. Timothy James McCarter, who is known in the local unhoused community as “Cowboy,” was evicted from the Near North encampment when it was swept by Minneapolis police earlier this month.
“It was a raid. They blocked it off for four blocks to make sure that no one with cameras can even get in and record the cutting up of the tents,” said McCarter.
“I lost things that can never be bought back,” said McCarter while wiping away a tear. He lost mementos from his late mother in the sweep and has been unable to get them back.
Alfredo Trujillo helped organize the press conference to help spread awareness of the recent sweeps. “How else are you going to get people to listen?” said Trujillo. “You can’t keep the voices in your head.”
Trujillo wants people to get to know unhoused residents of Minneapolis and to “treat them like people. Go to a homeless camp and shake hands with these people; they’re your neighbors at the end of the day,” said Trujillo.
“Bring them food, material stuff they can’t afford to buy themselves. Take them out to lunch.”
Toshira Garraway Allen, founder of Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence, compared the plight of the homeless to the plight of the families her organization assists who have had family members slain by police.
Garraway Allen said she was not at the conference as an activist or founder of an organization, but as “a human being who witnessed other human beings being mistreated. They’re having the last little bit of what they have stolen from them just like we had our loved ones stolen from us,” said Garraway Allen.
“The last little items that they have to survive are being stolen from them, ripped apart, ransacked, and they’re being mistreated. Just like a lot of our families are being mistreated. It’s a connection—I stand up for humanity.”
Young Eagle, a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation, has spent years living on the streets. “The first thing you experience when you’re on the streets is to be ‘othered,’ to be less-than,” said Young Eagle.
“People don’t see you. They don’t hear you; your words don’t seem to have the same effect or impact that they used to. They’ll walk right by you. I don’t care if you don’t hand me some spare change, but the fact that you don’t see me—that’s compelling. That says a lot about society and what’s wrong with society.”
Michelle Gross, president of CUAPB, said the organization was taking action because they were “fed up with using our City’s resources to engage in violent evictions.
“It’s not as if the City has a lot of extra resources to house people and they’re choosing not to be housed. There are no resources for people,” said Gross.
“And when we go to the City and we’ve been going to the city council, we’ve been going to the mayor for weeks on end now, and we say to them, ‘We need an immediate solution,‘ they want to talk about some kind of long-term plan. They’ve been doing these long-term plans for over 20 years, and yet it hasn’t solved the problem.”
Gross stated it was “outlandish” to see being homeless as a “character flaw,” saying the majority of Americans are a single financial disaster away from becoming homeless themselves.
“When we say this could be you, this is serious,” Gross said.
The office of Mayor Frey did not respond to our request for comment.
Cole Miska is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.