A federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of several people in Minneapolis is aiming to block evictions of the homeless population in city parks and compensate those who have been displaced.
The suit filed by Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota alleges that the City of Minneapolis and Hennepin County have violated the civil rights of those who were evicted from city parks in a series of sweeps across the city in recent months.
Among those named in the suit are Mayor Jacob Frey, Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson, and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board superintendent Al Bangoura.
Per MPR News, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, Henrietta Brown, says she was awoken at 4 a.m. in the rain in September by police officers "shaking her tent and shining a bright light in her face," with the officers telling her she had 30 minutes to get out despite not having received an eviction notice.
She says she was evicted so quickly she wasn't able to grab all her belongings, including her ID, which prevented her from getting a spot at a shelter≥
Earlier in the summer, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board gave temporary permission to homeless individuals to stay in the city's parks amid declining shelter space due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the upheaval resulting from the protests and riots seen in Minneapolis at the end of May.
But the city has said this cannot continue into the winter, and has been carrying out evictions on short notice at encampments in recent weeks. Both the city and the county meanwhile have said they're making investments to increase the capacity of homeless shelters across the area.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board says there are an estimated 160 tents in all of its park as of Monday, across 9 temporary encampments.
But in a statement issued in response to the lawsuit, the MPRB said: "Camping in parks now is simply not humane or safe. Three people have already died at homeless encampments in Minneapolis this year.
"The action by the plaintiffs in today’s lawsuit does absolutely nothing to ensure the safety of homeless people in the coming days when the first days of winter are upon us all."
It also rejects the claim that civil rights have been violated and the allegation that residents are not given notice of eviction.