I spent a short amount of time on Lake Street in Minneapolis, the day after massive arson and demonstrations, in the wake of George Floyd’s brutal murder. It was weird being there, not unlike Apocalypse Now, burned out buildings, some still smoldering others burned out with sprinkler still spraying water on cold ash. Young people all about, many helping in the clean up, others taking selfies like tourists, one asking me to pose in front of a burned hulk with my Veterans for Peace shirt on. What could I do but weep.
Mostly what I saw was people of good will caring about justice and their community. People taking care of each other, as it should be. I think VFP should make up a bunch of t-shirts that say: Veterans For Peace / Community Builders and hand them out. I took a broom, dust pan and bucket with me to offer small assistance.
I talked to a woman who lives in an apartment. She was up much of the night watching. She observed how they do it (burn and loot): they case the building first, maybe on bicycle, breaking windows comes next, then accelerant is placed inside, then someone goes down the line lighting the buildings up. Very organized. I suspect building owners/occupants could use help guarding their businesses at night but the curfew will make this impossible. A looter, who parked his truck in front of her building said he was “not interested in justice.”
Whether this is anarchists or fascists at work, or both, I do not know. Aside from the burnt Walgreen’s, US Bank and police building on Lake Street I saw minority businesses destroyed. The destruction of minority businesses and Native sites leads me to question who was doing this arsons. You can paint the picture from there.
I returned to Lake Street the next day, about a mile from yesterday’s location, one block from where George Floyd was murdered. I came to visit the African American man, a veteran, and I must add a member of Veterans For Peace, I’ve visited on a twice monthly basis in prison for five years. He is now in a halfway house, having arrived two weeks prior to the George’s killing. In spite of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racism Willie would choose to be where he is after 40 years behind bars. He was not heaven sent, he’s also not the same man put away. Flash bang grenades are making it hard to sleep at night. During the day (when not working) there are no services in this area after the arson’s torch lent its touch in this area too. Whether it’s my friend or other residents who don’t have money for a car this puts another obstacle in their life’s path. This will become a persistent haunt for me the next eight months. I wonder, will there be any lifting of boats here in these communities?
I don’t believe the demonstrations will stop, nor should they, until we see the arrests of the three murder accomplices. I’ve read two have left the state. Demonstrators, pressing on, got part of what they’ve worked for; the prosecution will now be done by Attorney General, Keith Ellison. The conviction of these murderers will be difficult because of the law’s built in racism. This is worthy of long term work to change it by all us citizens. I’m concerned what the failure of a conviction on this case wouldl mean for the neighborhoods and
On a positive note, lumber sales of 4 x 8 plywood must have been a boon for some. On my way home, this afternoon, businesses distant from the epicenter were wearing plywood instead of glass, thus giving graffiti practitioners ready canvases.
I don’t like the feel of a militarized presence in our city but, if it keeps the looting and arson a-bay joined with real progress on systemic change, I could swallow hard. If it’s status quo, the matches will be unboxed. We can pray real hard but, how does new blood enter those hardened arteries, our arteries? We all have work to do.