A protester buys a new home for local activist groups burned out by Walker fire
- Blog Post by: Randy Furst
- August 7, 2012 - 12:34 PM
Three Twin Cities activist groups who lost their office space when Walker Communited United Methodist Church was destroyed by fire on May 27 have found a new home, thanks to a veteran protester.
The organizations are moving into the former American Nordic Center at 4200 Cedar Ave. S., which was purchased by Dave Bicking in late July. Several other prominent local activist groups are also moving their offices into the building.
Bicking, 61, who runs Powderhorn Garage, a small auto repair shop, has been a regular at anti-war demonstrations in the Twin Cities over the past four decades. He said he bought the building outright for $350,000, money that came from an inheritance from an uncle several years ago.
Bicking will get some personal advantage out of the deal because he will live in an apartment on the second floor of the 8,000 square foot building. “It will be more convenient to attend meetings,” he said.
Bicking will rent out office space on the first floor and basement to the activist groups. There will be a common space for office equipment and Bicking plans to get a copy machine for them. The building also has a common area for meetings that can hold up to 100 people, he said.
The three groups moving into Bicking's building after losing their offices at Walker Church are the Welfare Rights Committee, Communities United Against Police Brutality, and the Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee.
Also moving their headquarters to the building are Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) and the Anti-War Committee, which together sponsor more demonstrations in the Twin Cities than any other groups.
WAMM has had its offices for many years at the Sabathani Community Center in south Minneapolis. Vanessa Lawrow, that group’s office manager, said she was excited about the move. “I am sad to leave Sabathani,” she said. “But it will be fun to be in a building with like-minded groups. It’s a neat idea."
The Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, which frequently provides legal help to protest groups, will also have its office in the building.
Occupy Homes, the organization that has been staging demonstrations in the Twin Cities to prevent banks from ousting homeowners from their foreclosed property, has been holding recent meetings at Bicking’s center. The building had been the home of the Danish American Center up until about six years ago, Bicking said. It was purchased by a couple and more recently the building had hosted occasional meetings of a Norwegian immigrant group, but was largely unused, he said.
Bicking said he had thought about buying some type of building to house activist groups for several years, but not on this scale.
Bicking was an unsuccessful candidate for the Minneapolis City Council from the ninth ward on the Green Party ticket in 2005 and 2009 and a member of the Civilian Review Authority board for two years. He estimates he has been on hundreds of demonstrations, the bulk of them anti-war.
Bicking said the building will eventually be given a name. Groups are moving in this month and he expects there will be some sort of formal opening in September.
The Walker Church at 3100 16th Ave. S., had not only rented out office space to activist organizations, but also provided a meeting place. The fire, which occurred on the day before Memorial Day, was a huge blow to the church’s congregation, which is holding services at Heart of the Beast Theater and other sites throughout the summer. Walker plans to begin holding regular Sunday services at Patrick's Cabaret, a performance center at 3010 Minnehaha Ave. on Sept. 9.
Jennifer Gahnstrom, office administrator at Walker Church, said the church hopes to rebuild on the site and complete construction by the end of 2013. "We are just now deciding on architects," she said. As for the protest groups that have now found alternative space, she says, "I think it's great they are getting their own building. It's perfect for them."
The day after the fire, 85 activists gathered at a nearby community center to discuss what to do. I quoted Bicking at that meeting, saying, "I've said for a long time, 'What would we do without Walker Church?’ Now we are going to find out."
Within a few weeks, Bicking answered his own question.
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