Neighbors clean up in Southwest Minneapolis

On Saturday afternoon, neighbors worked together to sweep water streaming out from the ransacked Wells Fargo branch at 31st & Nicollet into the sewers. The goal was to keep a nearby apartment from flooding. Photo by Zac Farber

In the aftermath of four chaotic nights, scores of Southwest Minneapolis residents have poured into the streets to sweep up glass and pick up debris scattered around the area.

People on Saturday walked around Lake Street and surrounding areas with brooms, dustpans and trash bins, a day after the 5th Precinct at 31st & Nicollet was the site of peaceful protests, fires and looting. Others cleaned up the broken glass and debris strewn around Uptown or helped businesses board up or paint over graffiti.

Kingfield resident Alix Gasek spent some time Saturday afternoon at the ransacked Wells Fargo, 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.

Afterward, Gasek walked over to her gutted post office a block to the east, which was still smoking from the roof. Volunteers were pulling letters blackened by smoke out of the building’s wreckage, which they planned to deliver personally. Gasek said she wasn’t sure if the smoldering building was safe but that people would be looking out for each other.

“This week has been devastating and hard to see,” said Gasek, who has attended a few protests. “But I understand that change is necessary, and as a white person, I can’t continue to stand idly by and watch.”

Ross Delebo, who lives near Bde Maka Ska, cleaned up near the Wells Fargo, in Uptown and at 38th & Chicago, the site of George Floyd’s arrest. He said he understands that people are angry about Floyd’s death on Monday and that although he personally wouldn’t loot, he understands that that’s how some people have shown their frustration.

He also said it’s nice to see the community come together to clean up and that police behavior needs to change in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

“You see [police brutaility] all the freaking time,” he said. “If it takes one video here to get this to happen, then guess what, it should happen.”

Sara Ilaug of Kingfield walked around with a group of friends and mutual friends bringing supplies to smaller businesses to help with cleanup. “Everything that’s happening right now is very necessary,” she said. “People want to do what they can to help.”

Two women who declined to share their names were among a small group throwing away bricks outside of the burned-down remains of the building at 3536 Nicollet Ave. that housed Family Dollar and O’Reilly Auto Parts.

One, who lives nearby and was at home in the early morning hours Saturday when the building went up in flames, said the neighborhood was “bracing” for what may happen Saturday night.

“Tonight, if there are rioters, the last thing they need is ammo to be throwing,” she said.

A large National Guard presence Saturday night dispersed the crowds that had gathered before the 8 p.m. curfew with tear gas.

Britta Gleason, whose boyfriend lives above the storefront at Lake & Grand, painted over graffiti Saturday afternoon on the boards of a business below his unit. She and him planned on leaving for Alexandria before the curfew.

“It was a disaster last night,” she said. “I was just furious last night and this morning. … It is going to take us years to come back from this. Whatever we’re doing right now, it’s not working.”

—Zac Farber contributed reporting to this story