Occupy Homes protesting arrest of homeless men who were fixing up foreclosed Mpls home
Activists blocked an intersection in downtown Minneapolis last night to protest the arrests.
:::: UPDATE, 4:35 p.m. :::: Occupy sources tell City Pages no felony charges will be filed against Martinneau and Willis. They have been charged with misdemeanor trespassing, however.
Just after noon yesterday, Antoine Martinneau and Damion Willis were arrested while doing some work on a foreclosed home near the intersection of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in south Minneapolis.
According to Occupy Homes, both Martinneau and Willis and currently "experiencing homelessness" and found the home unlocked. But Hennepin County officials say both men are being held on suspicion of a felony count of "possession of burglary tools," a charge that carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
Martinneau and Willis are being held without bail pending the outcome of a hearing scheduled for noon tomorrow.
In response, Occupy Homes is planning a rally for 11:30 a.m. this morning outside the Hennepin County Government Center. Organizers are planning to march "to Wells Fargo, City Hall, and the county jail," according to a press release.
Occupy Homes member Claire Bergren characterized the possibility Martinneau and Willis could face felony charges as "outrageous given what they were doing."
"This is a trend throughout the country, people reclaiming vacant homes and fixing them up for their families," Bergren told us. "They're criminalizing homelessness and we're not going to stand for it."
Bergren said she thinks racism is a factor in the fact Martinneau and Willis, both of whom are black, are being held without bail. (They were arrested along with a third person, who was cited and released.)
"I think it's hard to imagine that that if three white people were fixing up a home they would've been detained and slapped with felony charges," she said, adding that she believes police were called to the property following a call from a neighbor.
"Nobody is mad at the neighbor," Bergren said. "We need solidarity in our community."
A voicemail left with the Minneapolis Police Department spokesman seeking more information about the arrests wasn't immediately returned.
A Hennepin County official told us holding suspects who are arrested on suspicion of committing felonies without bail until their first court hearing is standard practice. But during today's protest, Occupy Homes is demanding "the city immediately release the arrestees and drop the charges."
"The community will rally to show they won't tolerate the city's intimidation tactics and trumped up charges being used against homeless African American individuals defending their human right to housing," the Occupy Homes release says.
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