A federal court judge’s ruling today allows the ACLU of Minnesota, Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid and Ballard Spahr’s lawsuit – brought on behalf of homeless people who lost their homes during tent encampment sweeps – to continue against the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.
MPRB had asked the judge to partially dismiss the lawsuit. Instead, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright allowed nearly all claims to move ahead that MPRB unlawfully seized and destroyed the plaintiffs’ property in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and their state constitutional equivalents. Most notably, the judge found that the allegations were sufficient to show an official policy by the MPRB to systematically destroy homeless people’s property in violation of the Constitution. The judge dismissed claims against the parks superintendent and parks police chief, as well as a claim that MPRB violated substantive due process rights.
“This ruling means we get to continue fighting for the people who were living in tents in Minneapolis parks and had to watch helplessly as their belongings including blankets, important papers and keepsakes — and their homes — were destroyed,” said Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid staff attorney Rebecca Stillman.
“People who are unhoused have the same rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, to privacy and to due process, and those rights must be respected,” said ACLU-MN Legal Director Teresa Nelson.
The ACLU-MN and Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid filed the lawsuit in October of 2020 against Hennepin County, the city of Minneapolis, the parks board, and officials in those agencies. The suit alleges that the city and county violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs and others living in the parks by destroying encampments. Giving little or no notice, law enforcement bulldozed people’s shelters, throwing away personal belongings including identification cards, clothing and sleeping bags.
The plaintiffs include several unhoused people and ZACAH, a nonprofit that supports Minnesotans facing poverty and displacement from their homes. Ballard Spahr is pro bono co-counsel on the case.