As fire and violence have raged through the Twin Cities, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen and Rum Bar has tried to help its community by serving as a pop-up food shelf.
To keep going, co-owner Tomme Beevas said he’s had to turn it into something “like a Fort Knox fortress.” Beevas’ business along Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis has been overwhelmed with volunteers — growing from about seven people standing guard to more than 250 vigilantly watching from rooftops, street corners and alleyways.
The same has happened in neighborhoods across the Twin Cities — from Little Earth to Longfellow — as residents have galvanized after several long nights of worry about what could happen at a time when first responders have been spread thin.
“Let’s be clear,” Beevas said. “We know that the police will not be there to protect us.”
When the word got out about Pimento being targeted with threats from white supremacists on social media, he said, the community came out to protect the safe space that’s providing supplies and food to protesters and those in need.
“We knew that by taking that leadership role, we would naturally become a target. And so we’ve been prepared and planning for it accordingly,” he said. “We are holding steadfast, full speed ahead with taking care of our people and taking care of our community.”
In and around Little Earth, neighbors and members of the American Indian Movement on Saturday patrolled streets and redirected incoming traffic after the 8 p.m. curfew to protect elders and children living in the south Minneapolis neighborhood. Several volunteer EMS workers from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe traveled 200 miles south to assist. Food shelf donations poured in.
Bobby Headbird said on Saturday evening that about 150 people were out protecting the surrounding Native American community with volunteers coming from Mille Lacs, Red Lake and Wisconsin.
“Leech Lake Twin Cities office was vandalized a little bit, but the neighbors are … standing out back in the alleyways out here protecting the neighborhood,” he said. “Now it’s all boarded up and so now we’re out here just making sure it doesn’t happen again.”
While community members across Minneapolis came out to clean up neighborhoods after nights of unrest this week, the number out to guard against violence has swelled on subsequent nights.
Youths in Cedar-Riverside lined the streets from Saturday evening to 6 a.m. Sunday.
Hesen Shire, owner of West Bank Furniture, said he hasn’t seen any law enforcement along Cedar Avenue where businesses — many Somali-owned — are boarded up. He has called police but no one has come, he said.
Instead, around 50 young people of different backgrounds and ethnicities came to support the neighborhood and keep it safe. Those efforts, he said, made a difference, noting Sunday morning that the situation on the street looked better despite recovering from vandals looting his store.
“This is life. Sometimes we struggle,” he said. “It’s a difficult time, but we still fight. This is history.”
Longfellow residents coordinated efforts to block off side streets using caution tape, sawhorses and makeshift barricades to protect residential areas from rioters. Some communicated over handheld radios to alert one another about incoming danger. Some were armed with bats.
Hillary Oppmann watched vandals loot the corner Walgreens for three straight nights without interference before arsonists finally lit it on fire. It took more than seven hours for firefighters to make it to the scene.
“We can’t lose any more community assets, like our libraries, pharmacies and post office,” said Oppmann, who lives three doors down from Lake Street. “They were simply left to burn.”
In north Minneapolis, residents guarded what remained on the area’s main commercial drag after several businesses along W. Broadway burned down.
Eli Darris of the ACLU Minnesota said the community patrolling effort came about out of a need to take care of critical infrastructure while standing up for justice.
“At the end of us making sure that we’re standing up against the senseless, reckless and inhumane taking of our brother’s life, we still want to make sure that our grandmas, our aunties, our uncles, our nephews are gonna have banks to go to, grocery stores to go inside of and shop, and what we’ve noticed is a very well-orchestrated, well-coordinated intentional attack against black businesses. And we made a determination that we will no longer allow these insidious rubes to come into our community,” he said.
Beevas at Pimento has the same mind-set of attending to immediate needs like protecting and feeding the neighborhood while striving for long-term change. As far as community policing efforts, he said neighbors should continue to look out for one another.
Starting next weekend, Beevas said he’s hosting a “Pimento Summit” to engage with community leaders and discuss meaningful legislation so that what happened to Floyd never happens again.
He said Pimento has traditionally stayed out of politics. But as a black-owned business in the city where Floyd’s death occurred, he said they must rise to action.
“We are the ones being targeted by the system as black men … so if we don’t speak up, who will speak up on our own behalf?” he said. “We are optimistic at Pimento that there is no better place for ground zero of this revolution than Minneapolis.”