Sirens blared and smoke blew from charred buildings as Carrie Thomas sat bereft on the front steps of her south Minneapolis home. Blocks away, people looted stores in daylight without police intervention. Volunteers swept up broken glass.
“This is my home, this is my city,” said Thomas, who lives on 27th Avenue. “It’s literally a war zone. It is absolutely sick.”
People living in the working-class neighborhood around the epicenter of Wednesday night’s protests, police clashes and riots encountered a changed neighborhood when they ventured outside the next morning.
They saw the stores they relied on for groceries and supplies smashed and burned. They saw fires that had smoldered for hours. Onlookers clogged the streets to take pictures and help clean up the mess. Some loaded up carts with merchandise from Target, Dollar Tree and Cub Foods, which appeared devoid of workers after the Wednesday night crowds broke in.
“It’s very sudden to see how the neighborhood just changed in a period of three, four hours,” said Elizabeth Lopez, holding her 2-year-old daughter outside her home off Lake Street.
“It was a neighborhood that was building new buildings and everything, and then suddenly they were all on fire,” she said. “I don’t understand how peaceful protesting became like a nightmare for this neighborhood.”
Mohamed Abdi saw the chaos unfold from his apartment in the shopping center with Target and Cub Foods that was hit the hardest by the vandalism.
“I’m not safe, you’re not safe,” Abdi said. “I don’t know when the area will be safe again.”
Now that Cub Foods and Target are damaged, he doesn’t know where he’ll get his groceries. He vowed to keep an eye on the entrance to his apartment building for the rest of the day to try to ward off rioters.
“It’s very sad for everybody, for the residential people, the people who work in the area,” he added.
James Goblisch was forced to drive back to his workplace at a metal finishing plant to wait out the mayhem Wednesday night, after his apartment building next to Schooner Tavern was evacuated. The building still had no electricity on Thursday, and tenants in the parking lot were preparing to stay at a nearby hotel.
“When I got home and they evacuated us, I had really nowhere to go last night,” Goblisch said.
Thomas left the neighborhood for 12 hours to protect herself as the protests grew violent. She watched on video as the area burned, amazed that neither the police nor anyone else in government did much to stop it.
“They don’t care about anyone here because if they did they wouldn’t allow this to happen,” said Thomas of the neighborhood’s destruction.
Latrice Butcheé joined in sweeping up glass in front of her son Rontell’s charter school, located a few buildings down from Target. The windows were smashed in and the security system was still beeping. She hung a poster out front that said, “Peace be still in Jesus name” and waved a white flag that she fashioned out of her broom and tissue to urge people to calm down.
Butcheé thought George Floyd’s killing was tragic — especially as the mother of two black sons — but expressed shock that people would attack a school.
“I live by the Bible and it says we must respect the authority that governs us. We must forgive and love, and I hope that can happen,” she said.
Heaven Martin, who was also sweeping glass, said that rioters had taken advantage of what started as a protest.
“You don’t destroy your own community and say it’s a protest. … This is sickening right here,” said Martin, her voice rising in anger. “It makes no sense. I just can’t believe my own community did this.”
Some members of the community acknowledged mixed feelings about the destruction. People had been demonstrating against police brutality for years, they said, and their frustrations and pain boiled over as it felt like nothing was changing.
“I am torn because … I was born and raised here, and [looters] shouldn’t have done it,” Sherry Edwards said. “But [police] also should stop killing us for nothing. They also shouldn’t have killed that black man.”
Jason McKinney was looking forward to returning to his job at a nearby barber shop Monday but found himself and a few others fending off intruders breaking in on Wednesday night. He understands their anger. Black people have been protesting for a long time, McKinney said, “and still it ain’t made no difference.” But he thinks it won’t help their cause.
“They’re trying to get justice, but this isn’t the right way to go about it,” said McKinney. “This isn’t going to solve it, tearing up everything.”
Adam Dydell, a longtime resident of the area, came out to see if the reports of destruction were real.
“This shouldn’t happen, but they also shouldn’t kill innocent black men,” Dydell said.
“You can replace merchandise,” he said. “All this stuff can be replaced. But an innocent life can’t.”