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Occupy Homes plans protest after more homeless people are arrested by MPD

Days after three homeless people were arrested at a foreclosed home in south Minneapolis, Occupy Homes says four more arrests occurred this week for the same thing.

A mother and son were arrested for squatting in a foreclosed home near Penn Avenue North and Golden Valley Road, and two more were arrested at a home near Park Avenue South and 31st Street, Occupy Homes representatives say.

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Becky Dernbach, policy and communications coordinator for Occupy Homes, says the recent spate of arrests at foreclosed homes is "absolutely unprecedented" and argues the city is violating its own foreclosure protocol, which specifies that in order for the MPD to get involved in clearing a house, "the title owner/agent needs to do a citizen's arrest."

"The banks should be initiating the process. The police have to have reason to respond to something and they're supposed to have a call from the property owner," Dernbach says. "These houses are sitting empty and then police are arresting people for being in them. That makes no sense -- the city should be allowing people to have shelter."

Referring to the south Minneapolis incident where three homeless people were arrested for trespassing after a neighbor called 911 to report suspicious activity, Dernbach says, "I don't begrudge police for responding to a 911 call, but that doesn't mean trespassing is taking place."

Police "can't say it was trespassing if the owner hasn't reported trespassing," Dernbach adds.

In response to the most recent arrests, Occupy Homes presented the city with two demands -- a public meeting with Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and city attorney Susan Segal, and the dismissal of all trespassing charges connected with the recent arrests.

Since the city hasn't been receptive to either request, Occupy Homes is planning "a demonstration to disrupt business as usual" on April 1 at 11 a.m.

"We will not tolerate the criminalization of homeless families or political repression," a release from Occupy Homes says. "If the city of Minneapolis would rather have people live in the streets than in unused bank-owned homes, we'll move into the streets.

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The Minneapolis Police Department declined to respond to Occupy Homes' allegation that the city has "declare[d] war on homeless families."

One of the homeless men arrested last week, Antoine Martinneau, said he and the two others who were arrested at a foreclosed home near the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street last week "were working to rehab the house" when police arrived.

"The backdoor was unsecured and we walked in through it," Martinneau says, adding that he "absolutely" views the recent arrests as "a crackdown."

Dernbach says Occupy Homes has helped about 20 people find shelter in foreclosed homes over the past year.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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