By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A group of demonstrators gathered outside the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis Thursday night to protest the eviction of a homeless encampment in a city park.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board cleared the encampment at Peavey Field Park Thursday morning.

Protesters, who say police used chemical spray to arrested people at the park, temporarily blocked the Government Plaza light rail station Thursday evening.

MPRB officials say they are not aware of the use of chemical spray, but police did make a few arrests. None of them were living at the encampment. Officials says only five people were staying at the encampment when they cleared it.

The eviction, according to MPRB, is in accordance with a resolution approved by the board commissioners in mid-July, which limits encampment sites and does not allow them to be located in safe school zones.

The Phillips neighborhood park is located next to K-12 Hope Academy, where in-person classes began on Sept. 2. During recent board meetings, the MPRB said both parents and students requested that the encampment be cleared so students and families can access play equipment, athletic courts and fields.

“We need to begin healing as a city. Cleaning up this park is needed for these kids and all kids in this community. Our children have been through a lot of trauma and they need a place to play,” Board Vice President LaTrisha Vetaw said.

On Aug. 10, the MPRB issued notices to vacate to about 12 tents in the park. Hennepin County staff and St. Stephens have offered assistance, including transportation and connection to spaces at nearby shelters. However, efforts to clear the encampment without the use of law enforcement were unsuccessful.

“Since Aug. 10, we have sought a peaceful disbandment of the camp, as we have disbanded other camps in the park system. The use of law enforcement has been a last resort at Peavey, as it was at Powderhorn Park,” Superintendent Al Bangoura said.

Once the encampment is cleared of people, the site will be cleaned, including abandoned tents, needles and bio-hazard materials.

More information on MPRB’s efforts on temporary encampments is here.

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