Updated 2:11 p.m.
Minneapolis city workers began clearing a longstanding tent encampment Friday morning near the Quarry shopping center in northeast Minneapolis.
Workers using heavy equipment could be seen removing items from the camp amid a very large police presence, with workers on foot removing items that the equipment couldn’t reach.
The city postponed its earlier plan to close the camp after dozens of activists showed up early Wednesday morning to protest, blocking the entrance with cars and wooden pallets.
On Friday, police officers established a wide perimeter in the Home Depot parking lot. While a few people were filming the scene, as of midmorning there was no large-scale presence of protesters.
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“When the site was secured this morning, there were six unsheltered individuals present. All individuals declined transportation to the Catholic Charities’ Opportunity Center for support, resources, and connection to shelter and housing opportunities,” the city said in a statement later in the morning.
At their request, two camp residents were transported to alternate locations, the city added.
‘Unprofessional and very hurtful’
People living at the encampment were given notice last week to vacate the area. Advocates for the residents have criticized the city for clearing camps in the middle of winter.
City officials said Wednesday that “multiple fires, minors living at the site, and winter weather have all contributed to increasingly unsafe conditions at this encampment,” leading to the city’s decision to clear it out.
One advocate for the Quarry camp, though, ripped the move and the police tactics around it.
“They're the ones bringing bulldozers and mace and rubber bullets and riot gear, said Simeon Aitken. “Unhousing people is violent. It’s trauma. Denying somebody a basic fundamental human right, making it impossible for them to meet a basic fundamental human need for shelter, security — those are basic psychological human needs. And preventing somebody from meeting that need is a form of violence.”
As they watched the encampment cleared Friday, people who’d been living there said some officers ridiculed them as they evicted them.
Nate, 28, said he and girlfriend were awakened to the sound of a loudspeaker telling residents to “grab your medications. Get up. Get out." Authorities, he added, spoke loudly, calling out, "‘How many people in there? Put your hands up.’ They were treating us like criminals, for sleeping on what used to be a landfill."
He said an officer laughed as he filmed them up close. "This was the most disgusting act of everything in my life,” said Nate, who declined to give his last name. “I loved America. I would die for this country. Not anymore.”
Going to a shelter, he added, would mean being apart from his girlfriend, and people at the camp just wanted to stay together with their loved ones. He said he’d lived at the camp for about a year.
Randi Fuller, who said she’d lived in the Quarry camp for about six months in a tent with her partner, Frank, said it was clear to her that officers were mocking them.
“It was really embarrassing,” she said. “The officers would whisper things to each other about something and then start laughing. Or they would call Frank ‘Mike’ and then laugh about the fact that's not his name … or laugh about the fact that they thought all he wanted to do was keep garbage,” said Fuller.
"I was really shocked and disappointed by the police department for doing something like that. That is just unprofessional and very hurtful,” she said, adding that she’d heard the officers’ conversations clearly. “We do get picked on a lot, by a lot of people and ... everyday hearing bad things about yourself is not the way to get out of this situation."