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An attempt to pause forcible removals of homeless encampments in Minneapolis until after the winter was rejected by Minneapolis City Council on Thursday.

The move, proposed by Ward 10 councilor Aisha Chugtai, would have paused all forced removals of encampments until April 30, 2023, but it ultimately failed in a 5-8 vote.

The meeting featured at time tense exchanges between council members and those sitting in the gallery during the hour-plus discussion. 

Minneapolis City Attorney Kristyn Anderson said the directive of pausing forced removals and clearing out encampments goes above what the city council is able to do, falling under executive authority – ie. the Office of Mayor Jacob Frey – and not legislative.

"The council can request the mayor to provide this information regarding cost, activities, etc.," City Council President Andrea Jenkins clarified to the room.

A majority of the meeting related to the discussion of how the directive was proposed and what authority the council itself has on going forward.

Chughtai called the Oct. 6 removal of three encampments "unacceptable," noting the challenges people affected face on short notice and little time to gather their belongings.

"The encampments were removed with a heavily armed police presence, resulting in unsheltered residents losing their belongings and the creation of new encampments and the growth of existing ones," Chughtai said.

"This sort of conduct is unacceptable. It's clear that our stated intentions and the way residents experience our choices and actions are out of alignment with one another."

Some of the residents living at these encampments experienced a loss of important items, such as legal documentation, medication and other important belongings. An encampment spokesperson added that someone who just secured housing lost her keys and phone during the Near North eviction earlier this month.

Chughtai accused the City of Minneapolis to react with "inhumane tactics" in these instances. 

"[The City of Minneapolis] does not systemically advance the reduction of homelessness and housing individuals in a dignified way," Chughtai stated.

She also spoke on how it makes social workers and police officers' jobs more difficult, as officers remain understaffed in the city and social workers respond to heightened stressful situations.

While other council members spoke in support of the directive, others on the panel called it "performative" politics.

"It feels like if this was done in the spirit of getting it right, it wouldn't have been sprung on us this morning," council member LaTrisha Vetaw, who represents Ward 4, said. 

"This is the first time I am even seeing this language. And, it feels performative. If you really want to accomplish something, this isn't the way you get it done."

Vetaw said she isn't a fan of how "some people" want data and a process to be followed for certain topics, but not everything. She said such processes typically involve committees, colleagues, attorneys, state officials, and other agencies and organizations.

"This is an opportunity for us to get it right. This is not the time to perform and play up to a group of people who come to threaten you, and make you feel bad. It's never going to be done right that way," Vetaw said.

Aside from the disagreements, the council approved an analysis of cost and health risks that are associated with forced removals.

You can watch the full city council meeting below. The topic begins at about the 43-minute mark.

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