Protesters demand extension of eviction moratorium – even as Walz extends it

About 100 housing advocates and renters gathered in Minneapolis Saturday to protest the expected Aug. 12 lifting of the latest statewide moratorium on rental evictions — even as the governor announced plans to again extend the moratorium beyond that date.

In March, Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency that included a halt to evictions to prevent people from losing shelter during the coronavirus pandemic. He has since extended it multiple times, most recently in July, setting Aug. 12 as the date the moratorium would end.

On Saturday, a governor’s spokesman said the peacetime emergency, including the moratorium, would continue beyond that date.

“[T]he Governor’s Office intends to extend the state of emergency which would keep the eviction moratorium in place,” spokesman Teddy Tschann wrote in an e-mail.

The governor can only extend the emergency for 30 days at a time. Walz plans to formally announce it when he calls a special session of the Legislature to approve the extension.

“He’s indicated publicly that he intends to do that — and will likely continue to do so as longs the pandemic poses an emergency in Minnesota,” Tschann said, adding that 49 out of 50 states are still in an state of emergency.

The protesters had not heard about the governor’s plans, said Arianna Feldman, a spokeswoman for Inquilinxs Unidxs por Justicia (United Renters for Justice), a renters’ advocacy group that organized Saturday’s rally and march.

“We are grateful that Gov. Walz has not succumbed to the pressure from the Minnesota Multi Housing Association,” Feldman said, referring to the group that represents landlords. “We call on Gov. Walz to continue standing with renters in Minnesota by canceling rent and mortgages and passing a minimum yearlong eviction moratorium.”

Earlier, emotions ran high at a rally in Logan Park in northeast Minneapolis, where a couple of dozen homeless people live in one of the tent encampments that have sprung up in parks around the city.

“Housing is a human right that affects every single one of us,” said Patrick Berry, a volunteer organizer and volunteer with the Minneapolis sanctuary movement who spoke to the crowd. “The idea that people could be put out of our homes … is abhorrent and absolutely inhumane.”

Demanding not just a continued ban on evictions but also forgiveness of past-due rents, protesters marched to a nearby house they said belonged to Cecil Smith, the HMA’s president and CEO.

The group clustered in the street in front of the house and yelled for Smith to come out. Nobody emerged. Blinds were drawn on front-facing windows.

Chloe Jackson, one of the event’s organizers, read a letter directed to Smith, outlining the group’s demands. She knocked on the front door, but nobody answered.

So Jackson stuck the letter in the side of the door, and the marchers returned to the park.