My Minneapolis Neighborhood—War Zone

With your indulgence, I’m going to get political. I live near the 3rd precinct Minneapolis police station, at the corner of Lake Street and Hiawatha that is the center of the protests. The Longfellow neighborhood where this is taking place is my neighborhood. Last night letting our dog out one last time, I could hear the steady stream of helicopters, sirens, and flash grenades, and knew it was going to be a rough night.

It was.

Overnight our neighborhood became a war zone, and this morning we’re still seeing what the damage is.

Neighbors fought with garden hoses and buckets to save homes after rioters set fire to a multi-story affordable housing complex under construction near the Third Precinct Station. Photo: Mark Vancleave – Star Tribune

Let me describe a bit about that busy corner, a hub of neighborhood life—and of our lives. There is an independent book store, one of the best around, that has thrived in the Amazon age by being a community partner and community center. Next door to it is a farmer’s market, that has brought fantastic produce into the city at affordable prices. There is a bike shop, a law office specializing in immigration law, our post office, and a group of excellent, immigrant-run restaurants specializing in food from Africa, Latin America, France, India and Japan. Immigrant-run, and immigrant-staffed business. An affordable housing complex was under construction. There is a branch library, built just a few years ago, that serves as a community center. There is a Target where many new Americans work, and other affordable grocery stores. The old fire house was converted into a theater that serves as a great venue for music, with a flamenco dance studio tucked behind it. An immigrant-run liquor store where I had a good rapport with the staff, who appreciated that I spoke Spanish.

This corner was part of the weave of our daily lives.

Reports are flying this morning, and news is spotty, but it is clear that my neighborhood was hit hard. Some of the places I listed have been burned to the ground. Some have been looted. Some, who are likely too small to gain national news coverage, are as yet unaccounted for. Places that just a few months ago I proudly showed off to our South African guest are now sitting in a sea of broken glass.

This is a link to news footage some of the carnage via MPR.

My community has been brutalized and tear gassed, and my fellow community members have been wounded in the fray. Yes, some protesters got out of hand. But it’s not entirely clear that the protestors were actually from the neighborhood, or even Minneapolis itself. Other protesters—my neighbors—were working to put out the fires. And at least one person seeking to help, was shot as a presumed looter.

I… feel.

I feel pain. I feel profound sorrow. I feel loss. I feel sorry for so many outstanding, community-focused places that were small, and successful, that have been dealt a critical blow at a time like this. I feel fear about what can, might, and will happen to my neighbors.

And I feel anger that so much of what has happened has been sparked by the police, who are here to protect and serve. For developing a culture where racism and power politics thrive. For resisting attempts to break this cycle. For resisting accountability. For callously taking the life of a community member, and meeting community anger—and a peaceful protest—with war footing. Anger that armed protests resisting “government” attempts to enforce safety protocols in a pandemic are treated with kid gloves, while community members protesting a needless killing are hit with rubber bullets and tear gas.

So many choices were available. So many chances to take a different path.

And the community is paying the price.

One final thought. As dramatic as the protests have been, it is important to keep focus on George Floyd… and the issues surrounding his death, which is at the center of this tragedy. That is the real story, and the real challenge we have to overcome.

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4 thoughts on “My Minneapolis Neighborhood—War Zone

  1. Thank you! That was my neighborhood too, 40 years ago, and still, I call it “mine” as well. I was in the AutoZone, and in the Cub just 10 days ago…

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  2. Oh, man, I hear you. I live in Linden Hills, but I still feel like my neighborhood has been hit like it was a few years ago when Justine Damond was killed by a cop. When I first saw the video, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here? In Minneapolis? Am I so naive? And then I just wanted to grab those cops by their shoulders and shake some sense into them. I understand the anger, the despair, and the frustration, the grief and sense of powerlessness the protests are meant to express. I question too if all the protesters are from Minneapolis, or if some are just taking the opportunity to create havoc. And I question how that cop could have kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck when the man said he couldn’t breathe, people witnessing it pleaded with him to remove his knee. I feel like we all need the Police Chief’s cell phone number in our phones so that when we see an MPD cop doing something like this we can call him and report the assault. I have no more words. Don’t you feel speechless in disbelief and shock of this? I felt so violated after Justine Damond was killed, like I couldn’t trust the cops to keep their fingers off the trigger. I feel the same way about them today.

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