Southwest Minneapolis shops board up their windows

The Uptown Apple store was one of many Southwest businesses to board its windows Thursday after a night of looting. Photo by Isaiah Rustad

After a night of flash-bombs and fire across the city, the sound of circular saws filled the streets of Southwest Minneapolis on Thursday.

“We’re getting ready hurricane-style, putting up wooden boards,” said Christian Segura, a manager of Hark’s corner store in Whittier.

Rage over the treatment of George Floyd, who died Monday after being choked by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at 38th & Chicago, contributed to an atmosphere of lawlessness that brought looters to dozens of businesses along Lake Street and Nicollet, Lyndale and Hennepin avenues. 

City Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins called for “peace and calm in our streets” while sharing protesters’ fury. “We feel as if there was a knee on all of our collective necks—a knee that says black life does not matter,” she said. Mayor Jacob Frey has declared a state of emergency and Gov. Tim Walz has activated the Minnesota National Guard.

While the destruction was worse to the east, in Southwest Minneapolis windows were smashed, guns fired and merchandise stolen. The owner of Thurston Jewelers, at the southwest corner of Lake & Lyndale, estimated $100,000 in damage. At Truong Thanh, an Asian grocery on Eat Street, a display case inside the store was busted, but all that was taken were a few packs of cigarettes.

“They broke into every single one of our tenants’ spaces,” said Andy Finn, whose family owns Ragstock and three adjacent storefronts along Lake Street. “Thank God nobody was here and nobody got hurt [but] it’s unfortunate there wasn’t more police protection for the citizens, the businesses and the neighborhoods.”

(Minneapolis police could not be reached to comment for this story.)

Many owners of ransacked shops were sympathetic to rioters’ anger, saying they thought that much of the looting was a crime of opportunity and that the protests were justified. 

“I hate what’s happened,” said Hisham Hassan, owner of A Slice of New York in Whittier, as he placed a hand-written “We’re open” sign on the plywood outside his pizza shop. “I drove to [38th & Chicago] last night, and there were many peaceful protesters. These other guys are just taking advantage.”

As Wedge resident Kyla Berges looked at the looted aisles of the Uptown Target, she said her main priority was that all four officers involved in Floyd’s death be charged.

“What’s breaking my heart is seeing on Facebook people speak up about property damage, when property is replaceable and black lives are not,” she said.

Precious Wallace, a self-employed graphic designer, grew up two blocks north of the corner where Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck until he died. In the late morning of May 28, she sat on the front steps of the Buzza Lofts of Uptown. As she spoke, workers boarded up her apartment building’s lobby.

“It has been a very hard few days being black in Minneapolis,” Wallace said. “I don’t think this is any different from the L.A. riots back in the ’90s. Minnesota is one of the most segregated places, still, in the United States. People shouldn’t be that surprised that we’re seeing today a real uprising.”

Wallace spent the evening of May 27 in her sub-basement apartment, waiting to see if rioters would make it all the way down Lake Street. When they started tearing up the CVS next door, she left and went to a friend’s house in Downtown.

“The reality is there was a whole bunch of kids — black and white — throwing bricks through the windows,” she said. “Some are just angry, but then you have agitators.”

Nate Gotlieb contributed reporting to this story.