More than 100 chanting tenants gathered outside Riverside Plaza apartment complex in Minneapolis Friday afternoon to demand better living conditions and protest "discrimination" against tenants.
Holding signs that read "We demand better services," "Stop the racism we demand respect & justice," the residents complained about a lack of parking spaces and broken elevators at the building owned by Sherman Associates.
"All the tenants don't get parking, and they are supposed to have parking for themselves and for their families, and we don't have that," said Mohamed Jama, a tenant who helped organize the protest. "The only guest parking we had was closed from us."
Jama said he thinks Sherman Associates closed the guest parking "because they want to make more money."
This is the second time this month that the tenants are conducting a protest.
Valerie Doleman, director of marketing and communications for Sherman Associates, said its representatives met Thursday with the executive directors of the Riverside Plaza Tenants' Association and leaders from the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota to address residents' concerns.
Doleman said they agreed on several points, including establishing a "bridge builder" to act as a liaison between the residents and the management team at Riverside Plaza.
"All parties agreed that Riverside Plaza management team is not discriminatory," she said.
Doleman said Riverside Plaza Tenants' Association and the management team will continue to meet weekly regarding the tenants' concerns. She said finding a solution to the parking space problem will be difficult because there are 900 parking stalls for 1,300 apartments.
"Parking is in very short supply in that area," Doleman said. "There is another new residential development that consumed parking spaces."
To help address the shortage, the management will convert some of the permit areas to meters to accommodate visitor parking, she said.
Doleman said Sherman Associates will clarify the new parking guidelines at the plaza but delay enforcement until May 1 so that no cars are towed before residents and visitors understand the policy.
After Thursday's meeting, only Weli Hassan, executive director of Riverside Plaza Resident Association signed the document. But Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, refused to sign it "without explanations," Doleman said.
As a result, Sherman Associates were not able to distribute the agreement to residents as intended, she said.
Noor, however, said he did not get a statement that required a signature.
"At no point was I asked to sign an agreement on behalf of the tenants and representatives," he said. "We may disagree on something, but the tenants and Riverside Plaza should continue to have a dialogue to address the issues that the tenants are complaining about."
Doleman also said she is "perplexed" why the tenants held a protest on Friday when Sherman Associates met with community leaders on Thursday. She said Jama briefly attended another meeting on Tuesday.
"We did not reach an agreement because [the owner of the plaza] did not even want to go through with our first point, and that was getting a new management," Jama said of the meeting.
Some residents complain that community advocates are divided and not working on the interest of the residents.
Ahmed Jama, 51, a tenant who lived at the Riverside Plaza for four years, said the activists are "politicizing the tenants' concerns" and creating confusion in the community.
To try to resolve the problems, Mohamed Mohamed, executive director of West Bank Community Coalition, said his group plans to co-host a listening session with Minneapolis City Council Member Abdi Warsame, who represents part of Cedar-Riverside, on April 3.
In a statement, Warsame said Riverside Plaza residents are entitled to live in buildings that are well-maintained and meet the community's standards for quality housing.
"The management must ensure the safety, comfort and restoration of services for all tenants," Warsame said.
Your support matters.
You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.