News / Minneapolis

  • Police Violently Evict the #4thPrecinctShutDown

     Update: By 9:20am Police had set up barricades around the Precinct. Via Ashley Fairbanks

     

     

     

    At 3:45am this morning, Minneapolis Police violently evicted the #4thPrecintShutDown. after 18 days of a 24/7 peaceful demonstration. What began as a response to the execution of Jamar Clark would become 18 days of a 24/7 peaceful demonstration. 

     

     


    Organizers called for a rally on Thursday November 3rd at 4pm at City Hall in response to what they cal, "the Mayor and City Council's continued brutality against peaceful protesters who have endured a white supremacist terrorist attack, police violence, and freezing temperatures to demand justice for Jamar Clark."


    Protestors continue to demand: Release the tapes, appoint a special prosecutor with no grand jury for Jamar Clark's case, and institute a safety plan to protect Minneapolis residents from continued police violence.

    During the course of the Shut Down of the #4th Precinct , Protestors where attacked by white supremacists, confronted the Mayor over what they are argue to be her inadequate response to the attacks and threw an elaborate "Blacksgiving" celebration.   

     

    After getting shot at by white supremacists, seeing two people next to me get hit, helping them into their friends SUV...

    Posted by Jie Wronski-Riley on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

     


    In describing the attack by white supremacists  Andy Parson wrote:

    "I was at the precinct when this happened; saw the protest security folks peacefully moving the masked white supremacist terrorists away fromthe site; heard the shots and saw people running both away from the shooting and towards it. Despite the heavy police presence in the immediate area, the cops seemed in no hurry to do anything. It was the protesters who worked to maintain order and safety.

    A few minutes before the shootings, one of the cops inside the precinct had popped up over the wall wearing a black face mask like the ones the white supremacists were wearing. You'd think, being so close and aware of the situation, they could have acted at something other than a snail's pace.

    Nobody was taken into custody, and one of the cops told protesters 'This is what you wanted.' Police then maced the peaceful demonstrators and ignored witnesses, including a friend of mine who had the name and address of a potential suspect.

    I wasn't alive in the 1960s and so don't know what that time in our history felt like. I know that what happened last night is wrong, profoundly wrong, and makes me think on how much work there still is to do. When white terrorists can hang out at a police precinct, shoot a bunch of black people, and walk away into the night, we have a deep and systemic problem.

    I'll be joining hundreds of others at the precinct today at 2pm for a march and I invite you all to join me, even if you haven't been out to any of the protests yet. Although it's a cliche, if you've ever wondered what you'd do if you were alive during the civil rights era, now's the time to find out. Hope to see you out there."

    -Filiberto Nolasco Gomez

  • Protestors Took over Freeway in response to the Execution of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis Police

     
    In response to the execution of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis Police protestors took over the 94 Freeway in Minneapolis, haulting traffic.

    After several hours of diverting traffic officers took over the freeway deploying over 60 squad cars. 

    42 protestors where booked in Hennepin County Jail. They began to be released in the early hours of the morning. 

     

    On November 17th BLM activists revealed that the coroner's office determined that Jamar Clark was indeed shot in the head by police. 

     

     

    Organizers offered a healing space for those that have been engaged in the fight for #justice4jamar. After 3 days of pain and confusion community came together to reflect and consider the impact of the last several days. Individuals came up to the stage to share there thoughts and feelings.

    A North Minneapolis resident and single mother Stephanie Gasca revealed that her 12 year old son had been kicked in the rear by his teacher.  Her son attends middle school in the Robbinsdale school district. The District is made up of at least 30% students of color and the teachers are largely white. 

    Stephanie further explained that, 

    Today I will have to explain to my son that the criminal "justice" system doesn't work for us. Explain to him that him being assaulted by his teacher is ok in the systems eyes and that there will be no charges brought against her because the white city attorney doesn't believe her actions were criminal or warrant any charges. I'm not surprised but I'm hurt that I have to explain this to my 12 year old son.

    For her the shooting is a reminder that her young boys are not safe and that the school to prison pipeline starts early. Her son, upon hearing that the District Attorney would not charge the teacher with assault he commented that: 

    How is that not assault? If I would of kicked a teacher I would of been in jail.

    Many others expressed there solidarity and sense of despair over the execution of the young man. It was eventually announced that Black Lives Matter Activists and members of Clark's family met with Mayor Hodges. The meetings seem to have been preliminary. 

     

    -Filiberto Nolasco Gomez 

     

     

  • Black Male Executed by Minneapolis Police. Protestors in a Stand Off

    Update: Monday November 16th, 5: 20 AM.

    Protestors continue in from of the 4th Precinct. A Press Conference was announced for 9 am

     

     

     

    Earlier today Sunday Nov. 15th, Jamar Clark, was shot by Minneapolis Police Dept. while unarmed and handcuffed at the intersection of James and Plymouth in North Minneapolis.

    Via Michael Mcdowell

     

    Overwhelmingly, neighbors are recounting that Jamar was handcuffed while shot and that the police threatened residents to leave the scene immediately after the incident. Jamar Clark was rushed to the hospital and the family reports that he is brain dead. Audio from the call with dispatchers can be heard below. 

    CBS Minnesota notes that a 10 year old has been identified as a witness to the execution: 

    “He said mom, they just shot that man out there,” Tequila Dillon said.

    Dillon said her 10-year-old son was among those who saw an officer shoot Jamar Clark. A friend of Clark’s said he was involved in an altercation with his girlfriend. Witnesses said when an ambulance arrived to help her, Clark was standing near it. A struggle then ensued between Clark and officers, and that’s when witnesses say he was shot.

    “My baby is 10-years-old. There is no way my son should have witnessed that. He shouldn’t have to come and tell me piece by piece what happened,” Dillon said.

     Furthermore, Teto Wilson, Northside Community Resident and Business Owner reported that:

    "The young man was just laying there; he was not resisting arrest. Two officers were surrounding the victim on the ground, an officer maneuvered his body around to shield Jamar's body, and I heard the shot go off"

     

    Protestors arrived at 3 PM to honor the life of Jamar Clark and affirm that he was executed by police. By dusk protestors had taken over the area in front of the precinct and staged a sit-in demanding that the officer responsible for the killing be arrested. 

     

    Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, to the frustration of protestors refused to address there concerns.

     


    The situation is a standoff between protestors and the police. An officer went so far as to draw a gun on two protestors.

     

     

     At the time of this writing protestors continue holding the street. Follow #justice4jamar for updates.

     

     

    -Filiberto Nolasco Gomez 

     

  • The New Slumlord of South Minneapolis

     

    Mostly Latino Low Wage Workers Take on the

    New Slumlord of South Minneapolis

     Minneapolis, MN. --- Juan Jimenez had not planned on going to the protest. He had never attended a meeting of Inquilinos Unidos, though he was aware that renters had been organizing in his apartment. Conditions had changed at his building but he had decided to not threaten the only affordable home he could find with the new landlord, and wait for the new normal to settle over his life. Now, after months of extra fees and strange demands, after threatening letters had been posted on his and his neighbor’s doors, moments after getting home from work on April 16th, he finally got mad. Juan stormed out of 3019 Pleasant Ave., an envelope crumpled in his fist, and piled his family into a taxi. He shouted the address of QT Properties to the cabbie. (Or at least the most recent address - they have had four different offices in the last 18 months.) Now he was fuming, tapping the envelope against his knee as he sped through South Minneapolis toward a crowd of about thirty people who didn’t know they were waiting for him.

     

     

    Jason Quilling, who owns 3019 Pleasant Ave., is the new slumlord of South Minneapolis.

     

    Between 2008 and 2012 the Minneapolis City Pages devoted a significant amount of resources to examining Spiros Zorbalas who they described as the biggest slumlord in recent memory. He owned 37 properties and went to jail several times for, among other things, possession of cocaine. Zorbalas was a colorful character who loved talking to reporters. Most of City Pages’ articles sensationalized the man and his habits more than the conditions his renters suffered. But it was these conditions that led Zorbalas, thanks to pressure from key city council members, to abandon his holdings in Minneapolis. About the time Zorbalas’ reign was ending, Jason Quilling began buying up properties in South Minneapolis.

     

    Quilling is not as colorful as Zorbalas. Zorbalas lived in a 5.5 million dollar beachfront home in Naples, Florida, while Quilling lives quietly on his Dayton farm. Zorbalas was described by City Pages as a ‘brash bon vivant,’ while Quilling hides behind a labyrinthine corporate structure. Zorbalas was an equal-opportunity abuser, while Jason Quilling profits from a blatantly racist business.

     

    Maria Alvarado has lived at 3019 Pleasant for 18 years. Her two sisters and her niece all live in the building next door. Maria’s life was “tranquila” until Jason Quilling bought the building in August of 2014. After that, “molestias todos los dias.” QT Properties placed weekly letters in bold colors on the front of the building and on her door, threatening fines for children playing outside, shoes left in the hallway, and apartment doors decorated with wrapping paper (as Maria does every season.)

     

    Many Latino renters had lived in 3019 Pleasant for over a decade, and more had lived just as long at 3105, 3023, and 3027 Pleasant, and at 3032, 3020, 3018, and 3114 Pillsbury, and at 3021 Longfellow. The story was the same in each building: the landlord never made repairs, but never bothered anyone and didn’t mind if rent was a little late. But when QT Properties bought the buildings, things started to change. The renters were curious of the changes, but didn't think anything of them until the threats and fines started.

     

    Several renters turned to Lyndale Neighborhood Association for legal advice about the new rules and changes to their leases. Their stories were alarming enough that Jen Arnold, lead organizer at LNA began door knocking in these buildings to learn more. She was joined by Natasha Villanueva and Roberto De La Riva, who are both school teachers and LNA boards members.

     

    The renters told similar stories but didn’t realize their neighbors shared their experiences. For example, in mid-February the renters had received letters demanding they pay rent online starting in March. The organizers heard over and over again, “I can figure out how to pay this way, but not everyone can.” The door knocks led to meetings, and the coalition of renters and organizers named themselves Inquilinos Unidos.

     

     

    Renters, sometimes still in their work uniforms, gather in an LNA meeting rooms to share their fears and frustrations about broken appointments, ignored maintenance requests, and how Fernando Campofreda (the property manager) and other staff treat them. The meetings always start with story-telling-- answering the question ‘why are you here?’

     

    Angela begins. In November when she and her roommate Marisela asked for repairs to their one bedroom, Fernando told them, “we don’t do repairs while people are living in the apartment.” The two took their complaint to City Inspection and the repairs were finally made on the last possible day. Like nearly all tenants in 3027, 3023, and 3019 Pleasant, they had signed a year lease which included off-street parking, but one month in QT Properties demanded monthly payment for parking. After an exchange of letters, Angela and Marisela took QT Properties to court, won their case, and received a parking sticker; but they were the only ones. Other residents chime in that they either paid the extra fee or now park blocks away.

     

    Ofelia Benitez goes next. After living in 3114 Pillsbury for about three months, there was a plumbing problem in Ofelia’s apartment. The floor flooded and it took management days to get to the apartment to stop the problem. After that, they told Ofelia she needed to move out for six days so they could fix it. She couldn’t afford to stay in another place, so she used fans to dry out the floor. The water caused the floor to warp, and there was an inch step between the kitchen and the bedroom. When Ofelia asked for repairs, Fernando told her he didn’t have the staff to make the repairs. One morning, Ofelia tripped on the warped wood and fell, hitting her head and injuring her foot. The management company did not reimburse her for any of her medical bills.

    As they told their stories, the renters discovered that QT Properties targeted the Spanish speaking community through vague ads in Spanish language publications. The ads resemble those in the back of City Pages: “room for rent, call this number.” Many of the renters work in the service industry, making low wages and struggling to support their families.

     

    Besides those terse ads, the renters only knew about their shadowy landlord through Fernando and a voice on the maintenance line answering machine telling them to call back. The renters did not even have a permanent address for the company that had so much power over their lives; QT Properties has used four different houses as an office in the last 9 months.

     

    Seeking a place to send a letter, Inquilinos Unidos found 24 separate Limited Liability Corporations mostly in Minnesota which are connected by Jason Quilling’s ownership, a building at 2960 Winnetka Ave., or both. Ten of these LLCs own at least one rental building, and another four are construction firms. According to Jen Arnold, one lawyer, a Lyndale resident, suggested that creating this many LLC’s might be meant to protect Quilling from litigation.  

    At the next meeting, organizers shared these discoveries with renters. An oversized styrofoam board covered in post-it-notes tried to illustrate the connections among Quilling’s small empire. Their suspicions were affirmed, the company, and the problem, was bigger than Fernando. As their situation became clear, the renters began to draft a demand letter for Fernando and Quilling:

      

    April 16th, 2015

    Dear Jason Quilling,

    We are here today to ask you to make some changes in the way your business (Q.T. Properties) is managed. We are tired of being disrespected in our housing.

    1. We want to be treated with respect.
      1. We want warnings of changes that affect us with two weeks notice, like parking, new leases or the location of your office.
      2. We want your staff to be respectful and not threatening towards us.
      3. We want your staff to be available to answer our calls. They should make appointments with us when it works in our schedules, so we don’t have to take days off of work. We want your staff to show up when they make appointments with us.
      4. We want to be notified with one week’s notice about when an exterminator will come so we can make arrangements to be there.
      5. We want you to ask permission before you enter our apartments--it’s the law!
    2. We want our apartments to be in good condition.
      1. We want your staff to respond to repair requests that we make within a few days, and to respond to emergencies immediately.
      2. We want you to hire maintenance staff who are certified to do the repairs they are making, and to hire a sufficient amount of staff to attend to requests in a timely manner.
      3. We want you to hire certified exterminators for pests so that the exterminations are successful.
    3. We want the option to sign 6 month or 1 year leases.
    4. We want alternative methods to paying rent and submitting maintenance requests online.
    5. We want written communications in Spanish and English from your office, including the lease.

    We think the first step in addressing these demands is to find a new manager in your office to replace Fernando. He continually offends us and is in charge of all the decisions that have made it difficult to work with your company.

    We anxiously await your response. You can get in communicate with us by sending a letter or email of response to Jennifer Arnold (jennifer@lyndale.org) at the Lyndale Neighborhood Association.

    Sincerely,

     

    Inquilinos Unidos por Justicia

     

     

    Armed with the letter and their stories, on April 16th the renters descended on 3112 Hennepin Ave, the most recent home of QT Properties. The business had its windows open but as soon as the crowds began chanting the panes were shuttered. The renters brought their children, who peered through the mail slot, yelling for Fernando. Their parents wanted to give Fernando a letter, they said. When no one answered, the renters took over the space, climbing the steps, turning the porch into a stage from which they told of injustices and threats. Pedestrians wandered past, curious about the ruckus in an otherwise congested commercial center. An Apple store and an Urban Outfitters are both just around the corner.

    Board Member Roberto de La Riva went around to the neighbors to inform them of who they were living next to. Ofelia, Angela, and Maria told their stories to cheers of support from other renters and a handful of men and women who had come to show solidarity. The media remained respectfully quiet, even as they interviewed renters. After the letter had been ceremoniously shoved through the mail slot, as the energy leveled out, a taxi zoomed to a stop in the middle of the street.

     

    Many of those present did not know who the man was, but those who lived at 3019 Pleasant Ave. recognized the Jimenez family. Juan ran to the front of the crowd while his wife paid the taxi driver. He mounted the porch and pulled a bill out of the envelope he was holding: $486 dollars for two towed cars. He had been one of those who paid the mid-lease parking fees, he had dutifully affixed the new stickers, so why had he been towed? “This happened because the protest is going on,” he told the crowd. Another renter had been abused, but thanks to Inquilinos Unidos, Juan Jimenez had a stage to speak from, and a crowd to listen.

     

    After the protest, QT staff met with city officials. While the meeting was closed to the public, QT clearly felt pressured. They have been posting letters on their tenants doors, insisting there is no problem. They urge direct communication with the management company, discourage renters from ‘inconsistencies in association,’ and warn of outside agitators who are just trying to stir up trouble. They have also door knocked twice, but it is clear that the renters know their power is in the bond they have created telling stories and depending on one another and they refuse to deal with the company alone.

     

    At the same time, the company has ignored demands to give tenants the latest parking permit (remember, free parking is promised in the lease). They have not rescinded their demand that rent be paid online. As a result, tenants distrust the communication with the Landlord and they fear if they express their concerns they will be retaliated against. Tenants say the management company is trying to isolate tenants instead of agreeing to meet with them altogether, as they have been asking for since before the protest.

     

    On May 6th a group of renters met at Lyndale Neighborhood Organization to meet meet with JoAnn Velde, Chief Inspector for Minneapolis Inspection Services - for buildings with 1 to 3 units. (The room was filled with a bounty of Mexican sweet bread that this writer disproportionately consumed, unable to shake off the nostalgia of eating, “pan de dulce” on the streets of his native Los Angeles.) Renters spoke with conviction as they carefully described the frustrations of being tenants of Jason Quilling. JoAnn was visibly moved, as a translator described the deplorable conditions renters had been living in. Most shockingly renters revealed that when Quilling took over 3027, 3023 and 3019 Pleasant he had essentially stolen their security deposits.

     

    When asked if this was the worst case JoAnn had ever seen she mentioned that Spiros Zorbalas had been the worst slumlord in recent memory. As they spoke, Jen Arnold wrote out their concerns on a poster board. The rough, sharpie-scrawled note makes a strong case for a New Slumlord of South Minneapolis:

     

    Building Negligence

    General Disrespect

    Needless Fines

    Drain plugged for two days, heat turned off overnight.

    Longfellow tenants receive an eviction letter at the same time.

    50 dollar a day fine for having AC.

    Longfellow building has heating problems.

    While canvassing renters spoke to a white women who mentioned that the property manager Fernando not only fixed the washing machine, but even returned money.

    Rent increase in an apartment from $625 to $700 within 6 months.

    Floors were flooded, and no emergency staff came for six days. After, were not repaired. Parent concerned since her child is asthmatic.

    No options for physical rent payments, tenants forced to pay via internet or move.

    The management doesn't seem to like fun. If you sit outside you get fined $60.

    Lots of bugs, maintenance just put down some paste. Mice and cockroaches. They said they would be killed by the venom in two minutes, but they were still there in 2 months.

    When they signed the lease, Fernando was nice, but when they called for repairs he was mean.

    Tenants will be fined $500 for opening their windows before April 15th, but there is no kitchen exhaust.

    Laundry machines don't work.

    They were told arbitrarily that they couldn't have a satellite dish. Many were given one week notice taped on the front door.

    Were told that it's illegal to play outside, $50 fine; management chained fences so youth couldn’t play between buildings.

     

    To listen to Jennifer and I talk about the organizing and what it all felt like and to here Jennifer's goofy Minnesota accent check out our podcast convo below! 

     

    Note: Here at chipsterlife we primarily blog while sometimes telling long form stories, reflections, features on artists and something close to actual journalism. In this piece I was motivated to investigate Jason Quilling and QT Properties by Jennifer Arnold, Lead Organizer at Lyndale Neighborhood Organization. Thus was borne Chipsterlife’s first investigative long form piece. I spent considerable time with Jennifer and the renters  to try and understand the complexities and story of the restless, predominantly latino tenants who had had enough. Jennifer graciously helped me pull together the essential components for this investigative piece. Furthermore, through an unnamed informant we were able to get Quilling’s personal cell phone number. After some phone calls and texts I was not able to get a comment on the record from him about his properties; he simply dismissively claimed that the accusations levied by the latino renters are made up and affirmed that the properties are well maintained.   

    -Filiberto Nolasco Gomez and Logan Carroll,
    with significant contributions from Jennifer Arnold
  • The Battle for Chicano and Latino Studies

    The Battle for Chicano and Latino Studies:
    What a banner drop on Cinco De Mayo was really all about

     

    Born out of the struggles by Chicanos throughout the United States to set the terms of their identity, the University of Minnesota established the first Chicano Studies Department in the upper Midwest in the 1970s.  Following similar successful efforts on the West Coast, the epicenter of the burgeoning Chicano Movement, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities department blossomed following a sit in by student activists at the primarily administrative building Morrill Hall.

    While victorious in its inception, the Chicano and Latino Studies Department has never had more than 4 faculty members and normally only two--one senior faculty and one junior faculty, i.e. non-tenured. Faculty have come and gone, many citing the inhospitable environment for faculty and students of color at the University of Minnesota as a primary motivation for leaving. Last year, the University revealed that former Chair Louis Mendoza’s tenure track faculty line would not be replaced, leaving the department with one tenure track professor. Chicano leaders throughout the community interpreted this as an attempt to destabilize the department and set it on a track for closure. Students and other community members responded to this and other social justice related concerns on campus with a series of events throughout the academic year, eventually leading to a sit in at the President’s office by one particular group, Whose Diversity?.

     

    On a snowy Minnesota afternoon, at a faculty organized solidarity rally for support of the students arrested during the sit in, the only professor in the Chicano Latino Studies Department spoke. Assistant Professor Jimmy Patiño gave a speech to a crowd of well-layered protesters on the front steps of the University’s main administration building. He explained:

     

     

    “I am currently the only faculty member in the 40 year old department of Chicano and Latino Studies. I have been put in a situation where I must constantly think and rethink how this situation came to be and what my responsibilities are in doing something about it.  And the administration has given excuses as to how this occurred, has minimized the absurdity of such a situation, and even suggested that this department is somehow supposed to have only a few faculty members. With all the excuses, what I hear from the admin is that “we do not value what you have dedicated your life to do. We do not value this field of study and the community it takes as its central subject of knowledge creating.”

    With the former Chair Professor Mendoza’s departure, along with the University’s decision to not reinstate and rehire for his position, the department was put in an extremely tenuous. Not having a senior faculty member has limited the number of professors who teach classes and can complete other necessary administrative tasks. However, most crucially, this has left the department without a viable candidate to serve as chair--a (usually) tenured professor who oversees the department. Although this position is currently held by Professor Éden Torres, she is actually “on loan” from the department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies and her term is up next year after which she will go on sabbatical and then phased retirement.

    While the one hire from the University may “solve” the problem of who will chair the department after Torres, it does not solve the department's larger problems. In order to have a truly sustainable and thriving  department that lives up to the standards of excellence in academia, Chicano and Latino Studies requires a minimum of five faculty members. While a seemingly ambitious goal given the dire constraints of University funding, activists argue that this ask is nothing compared to peer Midwest institutions. For example, the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign's Latino Studies department has 12 faculty members; the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Chican@ and Latin@ Studies department has 13 faculty members; and the University of Michigan’s Latina/o department has 10 faculty members.

     

     

    Activists explained that this was the reason that early in the morning on “Cinco De Mayo,” an estimated 40 ft  banner that read “FUND CHICANO STUDIES.” with the hashtag “#onehireisnotenough” was dropped from the University of Minnesota’s Coffman Memorial Union’s balcony. This act of protest was designed to highlight the University of Minnesota’s systematic and detrimental underfunding of the Chicano and Latino Studies department.

    Activists chose to drop a banner as a response to the University administration’s lack of engagement with the community over the tenuous state of the department. Earlier this semester, a number of activists sent an email to President Kaler, Vice President Hanson, and CLA Dean Coleman asking them to attend a community meeting. Dean Coleman responded by stating that there had not only been enough discussion over the matter, but that in fact that the matter had been resolved. Coleman was referencing the opportunity granted to the Chicano Latino Studies Department to search for one senior faculty hire next year, a direct result of the Whose Diversity? sit in. Activists argue that one hire is simply not enough to stabilize the department.

    The activists’ demands, however, go beyond the department’s faculty hiring numbers. They also demand that the University reinstate funds so that the department can rehire its Outreach Coordinator at full-time status. The position has proven to be crucial to Chicano and Latino Studies, as this department and academic field was founded on an inextricable connection to those in the community. The department’s outreach coordinator maintains those community connections and helps them thrive. Furthermore, this position has been central to developing programs to recruit, retain, and sustain Chicano and Latino students at the University.

     

    - Filiberto Nolasco Gomez 

     

     

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