Criminal Charges Dropped Against Three Defendants in Minneapolis Roof Depot Cases


Criminal Charges Dropped Against Three Defenders of the Roof Depot 

Arrestees recount night of the Roof Depot occupation & militarized police response ordered by Mayor Jacob Frey

Minneapolis, MN—May 15, 2023 

Prosecutors have now dismissed all charges against three people arrested and criminalized for their presence at the peaceful occupation of the Roof Depot on February 21, 2023.  

The Roof Depot is a 230,000 square-foot warehouse in the East Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis and near Little Earth, the only Indigenous-preference Section 8 housing project in the nation.  Like all of Minnesota, the site is located on Native land acquired through broken treaties.  

The City’s plans to demolish the Roof Depot and replace it with a diesel vehicle lot and fueling station have been met with public outcry that demolition of the former EPA Superfund site will further pollute one of the most diverse, and most polluted, neighborhoods in the region.  The Roof Depot is part of the so-called “arsenic triangle” of Minneapolis.  It has become a site of controversy and protest, as local activists fight to prevent demolition and transform the Roof Depot into an urban farm to benefit the community.    

Local activists raised their concerns with the City Council and in the Courts.  But in January, the City Council voted 7-6 against the community’s proposal, clearing the way for demolition to begin in February.  On February 21, 2023, residents of East Phillips and Little Earth, as well as members of Native groups and climate justice organizations, as well as other allies, occupied the Roof Depot with a tipi, several tents, and a sacred fire.  The group issued demands that included handing over control of the site to the community, removing other nearby polluting corporations, and a moratorium on encampment evictions.  

As night approached, dozens of Minneapolis Police Department officers raided the peaceful occupation and evicted the participants.  Six Depot Defenders were captured, and subsequently released.  Four were criminally charged by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office with misdemeanors.  This week, however, the last of those charges were dropped.   

“The police response was way over the top; it was a completely peaceful protest. In the context of the recent demonization of protesters around this issue by city officials, this grand show of force from the Mayor was absolutely political,” says Kay Lerohl, an activist with the Climate Justice Committee.

“Not only was the police response over the top, but the decision to criminally charge the Depot Defenders was ridiculous,” added Claire Glenn, a Climate Defense Project staff attorney who represented one of the Defenders.  “You’d think law enforcement would have better things to do than target community members peacefully working to protect the East Phillips neighborhood from further toxic pollution.  At least the County Attorney’s Office came to their senses and dropped the charges.”

The following are details of the events the night of February 21, 2023, by those who were arrested following the police raid of the Roof Depot occupation: 

  • The encampment was free from alcohol and substances, rooted in ceremony and community. Dozens of locals and organizations supported the encampment with supply donations and set-up labor. A Narcan demonstration occurred at the site, where approximately 15 volunteers were trained.
  • Starting at approximately 5:30pm, MPD officers were directed away from their usual patrols to the Roof Depot site. In total, 108 MPD officers, their vehicles, and an armored SWAT van blocked off all nearby intersections from all four directions around the Roof Depot site.
  • An MPD officer revealed to one of the protesters that Mayor Jacob Frey himself had ordered the eviction.  Arrestees also overheard police radio conversations, indicating that MPD had been directed not to make any arrests.  
  • The militarized response by MPD was excessive, extremely threatening, and at times outright incompetent. 
  • At one point, MPD officers had guns drawn as they surrounded two activists, who were not armed with any weapons.  Community members began yelling, “Put your gun away!” and eventually the officers did so. 
  • One of the arresting officers nearly drove over several community members with an MPD squad car while transporting one of the arrestees.  The MPD officer only stopped when another nearby officer urgently banged on the car to get the driver’s attention.  
  • Kenneth Feucht was one of the arresting MPD officers.  Although Feucht represented to protestors that he had never had a similar assignment before, records show that he was sued for making an unconstitutional arrest and using excessive force against protesters in 2012.  He received disciplinary action for the use of excessive force.
  • One of the Indigenous arrestees sustained a lasting ankle injury while in police custody.  
  • When issuing citations, arresting MPD officers handed out blank citations.  For at least one of the arrestees, the citation numbers did not match subsequent court records. 
  • While six activists were arrested and cited, only four ultimately were charged.  These four received summonses to appear for criminal proceedings on charges of “misdemeanor livestock trespass,” although no livestock was involved in the Roof Depot occupation. 
  • Evidence of implicit bias and discrimination against Indigenous arrestees by MPD was evident in these cases:  Following their arrest, Indigenous arrestees were dropped off at a homeless shelter, Homeward Bound, though they were not homeless, or taken to jail and held overnight. By comparison, white arrestees were dropped off at a nearby transit station or intersections near the demonstration.

This press release was written by a coalition of those arrested at the occupation protest on February 21, 2023. 

Contact: Kay Lerohl

Email (preferred):

Phone: 612-636-8390