On the morning of June 2, a group of 10 artists gathered to paint the wooden boards covering the windows at Salons by JC on Hennepin Avenue. It was one of dozens of Southwest Minneapolis businesses damaged in the civil unrest that’s followed George Floyd’s killing by a Minneapolis police officer.
Heather Renaux painted a heart with flowers shooting out of it and wrote the phrase “We see you.” To her right, Shane Anderson and Greta Sandquist painted a portrait of Floyd.
In between them, Sandquist’s children and one of their friends painted a large flower, and another group painted a cityscape on a different board.
Renaux said cleanup and beautification efforts show the “true spirit” of people in Minneapolis. It’s important to keep the attention on social injustice, she said, and having more people volunteer to clean helps maintain that focus.
Renaux and her group aren’t alone in their efforts. Countless volunteers have spent time cleaning streets, clearing debris, sweeping up broken glass from shattered windows, painting murals and more.
Those who have participated in the cleanups say they are driven by a desire to improve their communities and support damaged businesses. Many said they want to see justice for Floyd and changes to policing, and all said they’ve been heartened by the widespread volunteerism.
“It makes me have faith in humanity that people can come together and take [time] out of their day to help out,” said Ross Delebo, who lives near Bde Maka Ska and walked the city with a broom on May 30.
‘Change is necessary’
During the nights of mass protest following Floyd’s death, police told some business owners they would only receive aid if they were being physically threatened. Dozens of businesses on Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue were destroyed or damaged, with several burning down.
The mornings were a time for repair.
On May 29, LynLake resident Sam Malone swept glass from the sidewalk in front of Darbar India Grill & Bar, where a window had been shattered. He said he was cleaning because he thought the city probably had other things to do.
“I don’t want this to be representative of Uptown,” he said.
Kingfield resident Alix Gasek spent some time May 30 at the ransacked Wells Fargo at 31st & Nicollet, where water was streaming out from the sprinklers into the street. She joined dozens of her neighbors in an attempt to divert the water with mulch and brooms into the sewer system to prevent it flooding a nearby apartment complex.