MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A community garden built by activists in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood was removed Wednesday morning after the developers who own the property cited continued unrest and violence in the area.
Activists constructed the peace garden near the intersection of West Lake Street and Girard Avenue South after the killing of Winston Smith. The Black man was fatally shot on June 3 in a nearby parking ramp by deputies in a U.S. Marshals Service task force.
The garden also honored Deona Knajdek, the 31-year-old protester who was killed after a driver plowed into protesters who were demonstrating in Uptown. Nicholas Kraus, 35, is charged with second-degree unpremeditated murder in Knajdek’s death.
Around 6 a.m., crews with heavy equipment began removing the garden. While the management of Seven Points Uptown, formerly known as Calhoun Square, was initially open to working with the community on keeping the peace garden, they said that the last few weeks have been anything but peaceful, citing violence, property destruction, arson, and noise ordinance violations in the area.
“We previously committed to work to allow a community garden as long as it remained a safe and peaceful gathering place,” Seven Points said, in a statement. “Unfortunately, that has not happened.”
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A group of about 10 people showed up Wednesday morning to protest the removal of the garden. However, people who live and work in the area told WCCO-TV that they were happy to see the garden go.
“The neighborhood is ecstatic, it was a source of trouble,” said Bill, a man who lives in Uptown and wanted to be identified only by his first name. “I feel sorry for their cause…[Smith] shouldn’t have died, [Knajdek] shouldn’t have died…but it’s hopefully over, people can heal from this.”
“The continued destruction of property, violent acts, arson, noise ordinance violations and block access to Uptown residents and businesses created an unsustainable and unhealthy situation,” Seven Points Uptown said in a statement.
Bill believes the peace garden fell short of its commitment.
“From my experience, I found that it was peaceful on the surface, but as you stood there and looked in, you were sworn at and chased away. Under the surface it was a rather violent crowd. I’m sort of glad they’re gone,” said Bill.
Businesses in the area worry about the aftermath of taking away the garden.
“I’m worried about it, that it will drive a confrontation with the people who were holding the space there,” said Jamie Liestman, the manager of John Fluevog Shoes in Uptown.
Liestman hopes something good comes from this now empty space.
“If they’re removing it and the owners of the Seven Points mall do intend to actually develop the space and actually make it into something, I think that’s positive,” said Liestman.
Protestors at the intersection didn’t want to speak with WCCO. WCCO also reached out to several activists. They, too, declined to share their perspective on the removal of the garden.
Following the garden’s removal, Minneapolis police officers began guarding the area. We Push For Peace, an anti-gun violence activist group, was also out working to diffuse tensions between protesters and police.
Nightly demonstrations have been ongoing in Uptown since Smith’s death. The 32-year-old was was wanted for being a felon in possession of a gun and shot during an attempted arrest. Investigators say that evidence shows Smith fired a gun inside his car before undercover deputies shot him.
However, the woman who was with Smith at the time disputes that. Through her lawyer, she said that she didn’t see a gun on Smith or in his car. She is planning to file a civil lawsuit against the agencies involved in the shooting.
The unrest in Uptown has led to increased tensions in the area and forced organizers to cancel events, such as the Uptown Art Fair, which generally brings 350,000 visitors to the neighborhood to enjoy art, food and shopping.