Minnesota Comes Together in South Minneapolis Cleanup

Mark Freie
June 03, 2020 - 9:53 am

    East Lake Street was busy Tuesday as community members and outside volunteers came together for another day of cleanup after riots, fire, and looting tore through the Longfellow neighborhood last week. The unrest followed the death of George Floyd, who was killed while Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd repeatedly said, "I can't breathe."

    Demolition equipment filled the street Tuesday afternoon. The street's closed off between Minnehaha Avenue and S 29th Avenue as crews worked to bring-down the remaining structure that once housed El Nuevo Rodeo. East of there, a group of volunteers armed with cleaning supplies zeroed-in on walls filled with graffiti at a U.S. Bank branch.

    "This is my third day out here," said Mary Helget, who's lived a block off of East Lake Street for over three decades.

    The clean-up, Helget said, is a way to energize not only her, but the Longfellow neighborhood.

    "What's also energizing is watching all the people come in," Helget said as she fought back tears thinking about the smoke and destruction over the last week. "Feeling so alone and seeing all these people come out to help... just don't forget us, you know. Don't forget that we're still here."


    Rebuilding Lake Street continues to be a focus for the community and its leaders. The Lake Street Council set-up a fund that's amassed nearly $4 million in donations to help community businesses rebuild their storefronts. A significant portion of the donations will go to the family of George Floyd.

    A few block west at 3010 Minnehaha Avenue, Sara Fohrenkamm with Froriginals worked on a mural to honor George Floyd on the outside of The Hook and Ladder.

    george floyd

    "We stand by George Floyd 100%," Fohrenkamm. "It doesn't matter who you are. We should have justice for all. It shouldn't just be pick and choose."

    Along with cleanup, community outreach is underway along Lake Street with several outdoor food banks open after grocery stores were looted, leaving community members in a situation that was already dire because of COVID-19.

    The south Minneapolis Salvation Army location has set-up a food bank for anyone in-need.

    "For about a week now, we wanted to respond in a tangible way," said Katherine Clausell, the Territorial Social Justice and Urban Ministries Secretary for the Salvation Army in 11 midwest states. "People have become even more food insecure with all of the unrest. We know those needs exist because of that and COVID-19. We've moved our mission to the street and kind of relaxed our eligibility requirements. Anyone that has a need and presents themself, we're going to help them in some kind of way. Kind of a long-term recovery response."

    Tables lined the lawn of the south Minneapolis Salvation Army on Tuesday. Hundreds made their way through to grab donated food and water. Loaves and Fishes was on-hand, grilling to-go meals and handing out water as well.

    George Floyd's death impacted the Salvation Army, especially Clausell, who knew Floyd while he worked as a security guard at the Salvation Army Harbor Light Center.

    "He loved people," she said. "Not only did he show kindness to people who were weary and walking the streets all day, he showed kindness to our staff. The Harbor Lights Center is located in an area that's had its own ups and downs. He would walk out, particularly our female staff, out to their cars at the end of the day. He would just step in. He was a gentleman."

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