2 years after its fire, no clear path for Minneapolis 3rd Ward site – InForum
MINNEAPOLIS – Abandoned by police and set on fire following the murder of George Floyd, the 3rd Precinct Police Headquarters fell to ruins on May 28, 2020. Exactly two years later, those ruins remain a scar on the landscape of the south of Minneapolis, with no clear idea from the city about what should happen next, or a consensus from neighbors about what they want to see there.
The charred precinct building is largely intact, surrounded by a tall fence and barbed wire, its presence a constant reminder of the civil uprising sparked by Floyd’s killing while in police custody.
City officials declined to be asked about the future of the building at 3000 Minnehaha Ave. In a statement, the city said it was maintained and monitored regularly, but there was little information to share as it considered options.
“Some want it shaved”
In the absence of official plans, neighborhood organizations closest to the precinct have held listening sessions over the past few weeks to gather feedback from residents on what they would like to see happen with the lot.
“One important thing we realized was that there was very little discussion before this,” said Bennett Olupo, community organizer at Longfellow Community Council, which organized the events. “We haven’t really heard much from the city.”
Olupo said the neighborhood group also contacted the Minneapolis Police Department ahead of the listening sessions, asking if they had anything to share, but got no response.
“I think a lot of people think the police department has been hard to reach, hard to reach and hard to hear,” he said.
Over 150 people attended the events. Many expressed disappointment at the city’s lack of action. Olupo said Heather Johnston, the city’s acting coordinator, apologized for the city’s silence on the precinct’s future when she met with residents and said Minneapolis needs to do better.
The views shared in the listening sessions represent only a small fraction of the neighborhood, but the majority of participants said they did not want to see the Minneapolis Police Department at 3000 Minnehaha again.
“A lot of people there still feel traumatized by what happened — seeing the fire in the building, seeing the police marching against the citizens of the area,” Olupo said. “Some want it shaved and completely gone.”
Opinions varied, however, as to whether police should be present in the area again. Some said they wanted the police nearby again, but in a different building. Others said they want community-led safety initiatives to replace police presence in the neighborhood.
A few months after the 3rd Ward fire, city officials attempted to establish a new headquarters half a mile north. It was halted after community leaders and Seward’s police abolition group pushed back.
“Hundreds of people reached out to the city saying ‘No,'” said Robin Wonsley Worlobah, a Minneapolis City Council member who at the time was organizing with Seward Police Abolition.
“It was three months after the uprising, and people were like, ‘Wait, are you bringing in the 3rd arrondissement? … Our city just burned down. What are you talking about right now? recalls Wonsley Worlobah.
Wonsley Worlobah, who represents Ward 2, which borders the ward’s former site, wonders if the city’s hesitation over a plan for the 3rd Ward’s former site has to do with the strong backlash officials received at the reopening of George Floyd Square to car traffic last summer.
Shelter, museum, memorial?
Images of the 3rd Precinct building in flames and burning through the night two years ago have become synonymous with the movement to overhaul or abolish the Minneapolis Police Department. This tension makes the final decision about the site all the more difficult.
Residents who spoke at recent meetings offered a range of ideas on what to do with the space. Some preferred a memorial or museum to remember May 28, 2020. Others suggested uses that would serve the neighborhood, such as temporary shelter, a place with free food, health care, help with employment or other social services.
Olupo said the neighborhood group will then make a bigger effort to gather feedback from a wider range of community members by going out and talking to people in the area. The people who showed up to their events were mostly older white homeowners.
“Often the people most negatively affected by the police are the people we have failed to reach and hear from.”
City Council recently backed a Wonsley Worlobah-sponsored provision that would allow the city to spend $100,000 of American Rescue Plan Act money to bring someone from outside City Hall to partner with members of the community on a redevelopment plan for the former space in the 3rd arrondissement.
“The community has stepped up where we haven’t,” Wonsley Worlobah said during a May 18 meeting. “They would like the city to take it on and do it in partnership with community members. There is still a lot of justifiable distrust about how the city might move forward with this site.
The schedule is still in the works, and it has been complicated by the turmoil in the city coordinator’s office.
The city council postponed its vote on approving Johnston’s appointment as permanent coordinator until June 16 after a group of current and former city employees publicly complained that she had no not done enough to change the “toxic” culture within his department.
Jason Chavez, the city council member whose neighborhood includes the former site of the 3rd Ward and who attended community meetings, said he wanted to have something in the space that would support young people in the area, such as a youth employment center or after-school programs. and extracurriculars.
Wonsley Worlobah said she was more excited about ideas like a museum or memorial site, or using the space for a different kind of public safety that would provide care for people in crisis without armed responders. She also sees community support to use the compound’s former property for mental health care and housing resources.
She said she was open to many different futures for the property apart from converting it back into the 3rd arrondissement or selling the land to a property developer.
“I think that would be a slap in the face for everyone in Minneapolis,” she said.
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