ABOLISH THE POLICE: Local residents talk about why they support movement

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Smoke billows from E. Lake St. and Minnehaha the morning after a night of fire. (Photo by Tesha M. Christensen)

Editor’s note: In an effort to support a conversation about a current initiative in Minneapolis, I talked to three local activists and Longfellow business owners about defunding the police for this article. There are also suggested resources within the article for learning more. We welcome signed letters to the editor talking about the pros and cons as you see them, as we know there are lot of opinions about this initiative and one article can only include pieces of the larger conversation. We will continue to cover this issue as it unfolds. Email

You can’t miss the sign at Moon Palace Books, three buildings down from the Third Precinct at 3032 Minnehaha Ave.

Moon Palace Books owners Jamie and Angela Schwesnedl support a change to the police and prison system in favor of one that is “actually designed to keep the people in our communities safe.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

Before nine Minneapolis City Council members announced their intent to defund the police; before the National Guard was called to quell an uprising the size of which had never before been seen in Minneapolis; before 31 buildings in the neighborhood were burned and many more damaged; before countless peaceful protesters and journalists were injured – Moon Palace books had taken a stand.
Owners Jamie and Angela Schwesnedl have been active with and supportive of different organizations and campaigns for prison and police abolition for over 25 years.
“Many communities in our society have been prevented from functioning and thriving because of the police, and the institutions of white supremacy and predatory capitalism that the police protect and enforce,” the couple pointed out. “We absolutely need to figure out ways to keep all of our neighbors and communities safe. The Minneapolis Police Department was not created or designed to keep everyone safe, and it hasn’t functioned to do that.”
They support defunding and disbanding the police.
“Police forces in America have always served as slave-catchers for the Prison-Industrial system, which is a direct continuation of the brutal institution of antebellum slavery,” explained the Schwesnedls. “American police have grown increasingly more militarized, and use larger and larger amounts of city, county and state budgets, and have always functioned to terrorize communities of color, and enforce social control to protect the interests of the owning class, at the expense of workers’ rights.
“Instead of the lie that police exist to keep us all safe, we want systems that are actually designed to keep the people in our communities safe. We want systems and institutions that value ALL human life, including the lives of Black people, Indigenous people, trans people, women, people of color, etc.”
They added, “We feel terrible for everyone who lost businesses that represent countless hours and years of their labor and passion. And none of our businesses are as important as human lives that have been lost to police violence. Lives of Black people, Indigenous people, people of color.  None of our businesses are as important as putting an end to the trauma and suffering that police violence and intimidation has wrought on so many of our neighbors for so many years.”
As white, Euro-Americans, the Schwesnedls are currently working to amplify the voices of the groups and people leading the struggle on the ground, as well as providing some financial support, and making phone calls, sending emails, attending rallies, protests and meetings when they are able.
To learn more, they encourage people to check out groups like MPD150, Reclaim the Block, and Black Visions Collective.

Ricardo Levins Morales has been involved with MPD150 for years, and encourages people to go there for thoughtful answers and information on disbanding the police. (Art submitted)

Artist and activist
As an artist and an activist, Ricardo Levins Morales (3260 Minnehaha) has been involved with MPD150 for years.
In 1967 at 11 years old, Morales and his family left Puerto Rico and landed in Chicago during a time of great turmoil and police brutality. It was safer for him to walk the alleyways and take his chances with the gangs than to be on the streets and deal with the police, he recalled. “It was clear the police were dangerous people to be around,” said Morales.
One day the police shot a Black teen who was running home to catch a television show. “They said if he was running, he must have been running from a crime,” said Morales.
By age 14 or 15, Morales had started his life of activism and art when he discovered print making and screen printing. He’s been involved in labor organizing, farmers’ movements, peace activism, ecological work, international solidarity and more. “To me, they are really all the same thing: supporting human resilience in the face of hardship,” he explained.
He opened a studio at Minnehaha and 38th in 2009, and moved to his current location next to Peace Coffee two and a half years ago. Right now, Morales is giving away buttons to protesters that state: “Abolish the police, reform is not enough.”
As a Latinex man, Morales believes in the importance of solidarity with others who have had bad experiences with the police. This stands in contrast to the white racist narrative that believes if the cops are doing something bad to you then you must have deserved it, he pointed out.
What struck him about George Floyd’s murder was the “absolute indifference of this killer cop.” He said, “The police are essentially fulfilling the role lynch mobs did.”

Too broken to fix, only solution is replacement
Three years ago, on the 150th anniversary of the Minneapolis Police Department, MPD150 released a report detailing brutal practices baked into the formation of the department and tracking them through the years.
“We broke down how they interact everyday with people in crisis. They don’t do anything well,” said Morales. “You need grown-ups, not people who show up with tear gas and tasers and shoot at people. It’s all based on the mythology of how they supposedly keep us safe.”
Morales stated, “Having more cops in a city doesn’t make crime go down.” He pointed to white suburbs that have less police and policy brutality and less crime.
“People want decent homes, green spaces, parks for children. These are the basics of life that white suburbanites take for granted,” said Morales. When people have what they need, crime goes down. He supports using the millions spent on police in other ways to help people get their needs met, and implementing common sense solutions. Top on that list is stable housing.
Reforms instituted over decades haven’t work to fix police departments, said Morales.
On July 22, 2006, 19-year-old Fong Lee was shot eight times and killed by St. Paul Police Officer Jason Andersen. The gun authorities said they found nearby his body came from the police evidence room, Morales pointed out. “The officer was let off the hook.”
More training, review commissions, residency requirements – these simply do not work, said Morales. “It’s one of those entities so riddled with corruption, the only solution is replacement.”
He added, “There are a lot of people with solutions to problems that don’t involve killing them.”
If the mission is to help people, then the solution is to figure out what people need on a case-by-case basis and send those specific resources, such as mental health service providers, social workers, people trained in trauma and deescalation, victim/survivor advocates, religious leaders, and block clubs.
He encourages people to listen to what people of color are saying they need, and to read the thoughtfulness that has already gone into answering these questions by groups such as MPD150, Reclaim the Block and Black Visions Collective.
“Police have played a major role in making sure people without any money don’t have a chance,” said Morales, but he sees hope in what’s happening today and in people doing the work now that should have been done long ago.
“We’re living in different times but no more different than the other times,” he said. “The only difference is people are demanding better.”

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‘This is it. We’ve had enough.’

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Kayleen Kabba, a student at South High School. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

Kayleen Kabba will be going into 10th grade at South High School in the fall; if there is school, that is. She said, “The ‘not knowing’ about that feels big. There is a lot of ‘not knowing’ in my life right now.”
Like people of all ages, Kayleen is struggling to understand what’s going on around her. She said, “Some of my friends think the riots were fueled by the pandemic – that people were going crazy from being cooped up so long. The questions can start to spin around in your head. Why was tear gas used by police on peaceful protestors? Who are these people from out of state causing violence in our community? What is the media talking about? What is real?”
One thing is certain, as far as she’s concerned. Kayleen is glad that South High will no longer have police officers on-site. Minneapolis Public Schools has officially suspended their contract with the Minneapolis Police Department in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
Kayleen had an exchange with a police officer last winter, the likes of which she thinks is pretty common. She explained, “My mom dropped me off late at school one morning. I was coming from a doctor’s appointment. When I checked in at the office, the attendance lady said, ‘There are only a couple minutes left of your first class; you can go stand at the door of your second class.’ So I started walking that direction.
“There was a group of 4-5 white kids in front of me in the hall. The school police officer smiled at them as they walked by, but he made me stop. He listened to my explanation, he checked my pass, and he said, ‘Don’t let me catch you out in the hallway again.’ He was not smiling. At the time it didn’t really register, but I felt the difference in the way he treated me was odd.
“We have to have some form of public safety in the schools and on the streets, but the priority should be de-escalation. So much of the time, authority figures don’t take the time to hear more than one side of the story. I really hope change is coming soon. I hope my generation will be the one to say, “This is IT. We’ve had enough.”

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‘It looked like just another killing of a black man in America’

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Dre Vann

Dre Vann started coming to Brackett Park in the Longfellow neighborhood when his gym closed in March. He and his friends use the Depression-Era concrete picnic tables as workout benches. They lift free weights, heavy ones, with enviable strength and discipline.
When he saw the video of George Floyd’s murder, Dre hardly even felt it register. He said, “It looked like just another killing of a black man in America. It was a head shaker, but as a black person you’ve got to have that pick up and keep going mentality.”
By Tuesday night, Dre’s anger had grown. He said, “I’ve never done any crimes. I’ve served in the military. Still, I can’t get lost in the wrong neighborhood or walk into most restaurants in the Twin Cities without heads turning and people talking. I am scared every day of my life.”
Dre describes himself as having grown a very thick skin in his 26 years, to keep from getting bruised too bad. He didn’t participate in the protests because he doesn’t feel systemic racism is going to change in this country. He believes the color of his skin is an act of protest he has to live out every single day.
About the protests, Dre said, “I hate to admit it, but I’m glad people burned some things down. If someone’s been bullying you your whole life, it’s not like you’re going to take their lunch money. You’ve got to do something to really get their attention.”
If the world is paying attention right now, Dre questions how long it will last. While he is not convinced that allies will continue to stand up for this cause, Dre said, “I’m glad that people are starting to come out of their comfortable boxes, and entering into the discomfort of talking about really hard things.”

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‘We continue to pray that people get along’

Posted on 27 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Senem Yumshuk prays every morning on the lawn in front of Holy Trinity Church. At the base of an oak, she prays for her children. At the base of an elm, she prays for children everywhere. She moves to another oak and prays for her mother. There are many trees. There are many prayers. Sitting on her heels with her back against each tree trunk, Senem feels the presence of Allah – the God of her Muslim faith.
Early in the morning, it is peaceful out on the lawn. Lines haven’t formed yet on 31st St., where hundreds will soon gather to receive food donations. There are just a few cars out.
Senem will return to Turkey next week, leaving her teenage sons and her mother who have lived in this neighborhood for 10 years. She will miss them. She will miss the trees, but there is always someplace to pray. Senem has been unable to get a green card, so she works in Turkey as a nurse eight months of the year and has extended visits here when she can. “This visit,” she said, “has been too crazy.”
When the neighborhood outside her mother’s window began to burn on May 26, the two Turkish women prayed together through the night. They held each other as they watched the news reports roll in. They wept for George Floyd. Senem said, “We believe that every son is our son, and every daughter is our daughter too. Why does it have to be so hard?”
The Turkish news media sent a crew to South Minneapolis to cover the riots. Senem said, “Even in my country, almost 6,000 miles away, they are saying the name of George Floyd. I believe he is very happy right now, because of all the good that will come from what has happened. We continue to cry for him, and to pray that people everywhere can learn to get along.”

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Q&A with Kelly Drummer of MIGIZI

Posted on 26 June 2020 by Elena Vaughn

By Elena Vaughn

MIGZI is grieving. The organization had just completed renovations in the summer of 2019, opening their space for Native American youth. The building (3017 27th Ave. S.) was burned down on Friday, May 29, 2020. On June 24, Kelly Drummer provided an update on how the group is healing and moving forward.

  • In 1968, Martin Luther King asked “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” How do you see the impact of these protests carrying on King’s legacy?
    • The systemic injustice that has continued for over 400 years across Indigenous and Black communities continue to impact our human rights of our people.  The small changes that happened from 1968 to 2020 did not really change the underlying systems of power that keep our people oppressed and powerless.  MIGZI youth are the next generation to create understanding and change in our system of injustice and oppression that builds toward bold action.
  •  What role do you see indigenous people inhabiting in the current African-American struggle? 
    • We have the same struggle. We are brothers and sisters in this together.  We believe that any harm to another is a harm to our community.
  • What do you want to tell protesters, specifically African-American protesters, either in encouragement or warning?  
    • We are in this struggle together.  There is no separation of our people.  The American Indian Movement and the Black Lives Matter movement are in partnership in the struggle for our rights and justice.
  • Do you have a fundraising page we can share?
    • Our donation pages are listed on our website and you can go to

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Remembering 27th and Lake

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

By Iric Nathanson

Neighbors who live around 27th and Lake St. are now finding themselves at the edge of a war zone of burned out and boarded buildings. Their commercial district encompasses the Third Precinct police station, the Minneapolis site that made national news when it was torched by rioters in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
This once thriving district, now the scene of so much devastation, has a rich history extending back to the final decades of the 19th century. During those early years, when Lake St. was a narrow dirt road beyond the Minneapolis city limits, a scattering of homes and businesses sprung up around a small industrial firm. Minneapolis Harvester Works, was established at the intersection of Lake and Hiawatha in 1882. A block away, the first known hotel in the area, Hotel Woodland, was built on 27th Ave. in 1901. The building later become the Schooner Bar, a 120-year-old landmark still standing in 2020, but badly damaged during the recent riots.

Moline job action 1945

The Harvester Works firm was short lived. When the business failed, its site was taken over by another small industrial concern, Minneapolis Steel and Machinery, in 1902. Minneapolis Steel prospered, enlarging its production facilities to cover an expansive site extending from Hiawatha to Minnehaha Ave. between 28th St. and Lake. By 1930, now known as Minneapolis Moline, this South Minneapolis industrial firm, which manufactured farm machinery, had become one of the city’s largest employers. During World War II, retooled to produce U.S. army vehicles, Moline saw its workforce balloon to over 4,000. After VJ day, which marked the end of World War II, many of those workers found that they were suddenly jobless as Moline sharply cut back its wartime production.
Then, protesting the company’s layoff policies , disgruntled workers launched a strike and temporarily blocked traffic on Lake Street as a sign of protest. Their strike lasted for more than two months.
To the east of the Minneapolis Moline plant, two multi-story commercial buildings flanked the intersection of 27th and Lake. The oldest of the two was built for the International Order of the Oddfellow (IOOF) in 1909. The Oddfellows used the building’s second floor for their meeting rooms, while the J.O. Peterson Drug Store, the building’s longtime tenant, occupied the prime corner spot on the ground floor.
In a prelude to a more destructive conflagration 70 years later, a 1948 fire caused substantial damage to the Oddfellows’ building. Minneapolis firefighters fought the blaze for six hours before bringing it under control. The 1948 fire spared the building’s Town Talk Diner, a popular lunch spot for workers from the nearby Moline plant. But the diner fell on hard times starting in the 1970s. After it shuttered in 2002, Town Talk’s space remained empty until it reopened as an upscale eatery in 2006. Later owners retained the diner’s name and its distinctive lighted sign which had become a popular East Lake landmark. This year, the Town Talk’s life was cut short when the recent riots destroyed the Oddfellows Building, the Lake Street’s café’s home for more than 70 years.

Town Talk Diner 1954

Across Lake from the Oddfellows, the 1917 Coliseum Building housed Freeman’s, at one point the city’s largest department store outside of downtown. The Lake St. store was a joint effort of its owner, E.B. Freeman and his wife, Harriet, who oversaw the store’s women’s department. Freeman’s Department Store flourished during the 1920s and held its own throughout the Great Depression. During those difficult years, many of the families who shopped at Freeman’s had breadwinners who held on to their jobs at Minneapolis Moline and at the Ford plant across the river in St. Paul. “They were Swedes and Norwegian who were thrifty by nature. They didn’t waste their money. And they kept coming to our store,” recalled E. B. Freeman’s son, Wallace.
Freeman’s survived the Great Depression and World War II but succumbed to the forces of suburbanization that battered inner city retailing in the post-war era. The Lake St. department store hung on until 1975 when it finally closed.
After Freeman’s closed, Roger Podany, a local businessman who owned a used office furniture business, purchased the Coliseum and put his own name on the front of the building. During the 1970s, Podany rented the building’s basement to up and coming musical groups including the well-known Suburbs. The Podany Building’s third floor ballroom served as the temporary home of the folk dance group, Tapestry.
The 1970s took its toll on nearby Minneapolis Moline after the farm implements manufacturer was sold to the Ohio-based White Motor Company. In 1972, White Motor closed the Lake Street Moline plant along with a second factory in Hopkins, putting 1200 Moline employees out of work.
The closure of the Moline plant marked the end of 27th and Lake’s industrial era and the start of a new effort to reinvent the district a retail destination. Moline’s factory buildings were demolished and replaced with a suburban style shopping center anchored by a massive Target Store. The big-box Target, a major Lake St. anchor well into the 21st century, opened in 1976. A year later, the multi-tenanted Minnehaha Mall opened on an adjacent site. The new mall billed itself as the first indoor shopping center built in Minneapolis during the previous 15 years. The retail center’s suburban configuration, fronting on a large parking lot, would soon fall out of favor with urban planners who wanted to discourage auto uses and promote high density development. After retail faded away at the Minnehaha Mall, the building was reconditioned to serve as the home of the Minnesota Transitions Charter School.
In the mid 1980s, 27th and Lake underwent another wave of redevelopment when the block to the east of Target became the site of a Rainbow grocery store. The Rainbow replaced the Third Precinct police station which had occupied the site since the 1950s. When Rainbow closed in 2014, its space remained vacant until 2019 when the property was redeveloped for an ALDI Market.
In 1985, the Third Precinct moved into a new building at the southwest corner of Lake and Minnehaha. The new station featured a public entrance facing the corner, designed to be open and accessible to the public, according to the building’s architect.
The 2000s saw the redevelopment of the Podany Building with its original name restored, a major expansion of the nearby East Lake Library and the construction of the Midtown Greenway along the district’s northern edge at 27th St.
During the past decade, several community groups including the Lake Street Council, the Longfellow Community Council, and the Longfellow Business Association have worked to promote 27th and Lake’s revival. They were encouraged by the ethnic restaurants and the new Moon Palace book store that helped make their commercial district a neighborhood friendly” mini-downtown” for the adjacent Longfellow Community.
Now, those efforts have suffered a huge setback as a result of the recent riots that destroyed or damaged more than 30 area businesses and community facilities. The list includes Target, ALDI, the Coliseum, the Minnesota Transitions Charter School and the East Lake Library.
But one community leader is not deterred. “Many of our residents and businesses feel abandoned and afraid,” acknowledges Melanie Majors, the Longfellow Community Council’s Executive Director. “There has been an extreme and tangible threat to our community. I have been working for this community for 13 years and I know that the people here care and love their neighbors, their businesses and their community. We are being tested right now and while we are suffering an unprecedented amount of damage and destruction we will overcome this. While we have lost much, this does not change who we are. Longfellow will be rebuilt and it will be stronger than ever.”

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Rebuild Longfellow: Grassroots group is partnering with local businesses

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen


Hundreds of people lined up for a hygiene supply and food distribution outside the Hennepin Health Care Clinic at 27th Avenue and East Lake Street on June 18, 2020. The clinic had filled out Rebuild Longfellow’s Business Needs survey, requesting volunteer support for this event. (Photo by Margie O’Loughlin)

At a spontaneously organized meeting on May 30, 2020, community activist Francisco Segovia spoke to a crowd of several hundred people gathered at Longfellow Park. With many Lake Street businesses still smoldering, he said, “Now is the time to show up and make a difference – we need to really show our heart as a neighborhood.”
Human resources specialist Sonja Blackstone was in the crowd that afternoon. She has been a block club leader since she bought her Longfellow home five years ago, and the block she moved to has been organized consistently for more than 50 years.
She said, “People were worried about immediate safety during the riots. Keeping an eye on our neighborhoods, that’s what we do as block club leaders. A lot of people were exposed to block clubs that day who hadn’t heard of them before. We started the idea of night shifts. We suggested guidelines for safety. We got people connected.”
Josh Peterson was in the crowd, too. He said, “We were all trying to get our collective feet on the ground, and figure out how to best respond to the destruction in our community.”
A former special operations officer in Afghanistan and Iraq, Peterson is used to thinking quickly and mobilizing teams. He joined five other business professionals interested in helping small businesses affected by looting and arson along Lake Street. The result of their first brainstorming session at the park, and nearly daily meetings since then, is a new grassroots initiative called Rebuild Longfellow.
“Often when there is crisis, people don’t know what to do because it’s so overwhelming,” said Peterson.

Matching business owners and block clubs
Rebuild Longfellow is trying to keep things simple. Their primary goal is to match two neighborhood groups: business owners and block clubs. Longfellow contains some 500 restaurants, coffee shops, hardware stores, beauty parlors, grocery stores, mosques, banks, laundromats, pharmacies, daycare centers, churches, libraries, doctor’s offices, dental clinics, and more. All are considered businesses for the purposes of this partnership. Rebuild Longfellow is partnering with the Longfellow Business Association (LBA), Longfellow Community Council, and Lake Street Council to balance moving quickly with planning for the long-term community work the neighborhood needs.
Peterson said, “We have already received requests from 90+ block clubs that want to adopt local businesses and help them succeed well into the future. We’re looking at both the physical damage from the recent unrest, and the economic devastation from COVID 19. Each participating block club will receive a list of 10 businesses to contact.”
In the days since that first meeting in Longfellow Park, the business group has developed a short questionnaire and sent it to every business listed in the Longfellow Business Directory, published jointly by the LBA and the Longfellow Nokomis Messenger.
Peterson said, “We’re focusing on the long term needs of our area businesses. We’ll let the business owners lead, and tell us how we can support them with our available skills.”

“Many of us see this as a moment to reflect upon the broad systems that have entrenched racial injustices in our community. However, reflection is only the first step, and we are determined to take actions to ensure that Longfellow centers justice in all of its decision making. We are simultaneously enraged and inspired to create ‘un mundo donde quepan todos los mundos:’ a world where all worlds fit.”
From Francisco Segovia, executive director of Communities Organizing Latinx Power and Action (COPAL)


Stepping into really long story of racial inequality
Neighbors see this as a turning point to finally do something about racial inequality.
Peterson said, “Our group isn’t about being fancy. Rebuild Longfellow is scrapped together and focused on action. We’re stepping into a really long story of racial inequality, one that was written hundreds of years ago. We’re taking these initial steps of creating a survey and a website, and connecting block clubs with local businesses. We’re hoping our partnership goes way beyond replacing buildings, but this is where we’re starting.”
Blackstone added, “Now that curfews and vigilant night watches are over, we’re still watching out for our neighbors. We’re helping to build more meaningful connections. Once those relationships are solid, we can start having conversations about fighting racism. I’m focusing my energy on deepening community connections.”
The Rebuild Longfellow website will be up and running soon at Email Josh Peterson with questions about how to get involved at Email Sonja Blackstone if your block club is interested in adopting Lake Street businesses at
Blackstone concluded, “This process of partnering with local businesses and deepening relationships with our neighbors is going to take time. It’s going to be a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s give ourselves a full year, like the city council is doing with the Minneapolis Police Department, to look slowly and critically look at ourselves, our neighborhoods, and our city.”

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Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

On Thursday, May 28, Touchstone Mental Health announced there would be a Food Drive for Minnehaha Commons Residents (3001 E. Lake St.) the following day. Within a half an hour of the drop off time on the 29th, there were so many donations they offered them up to the community at large, curbside. Hundreds of families picked up food. “It was so unexpected to have such a massive response,” said Touchstone Mental Health Executive Director Ellie Skelton. Also unexpected, she said, the tenants at Minnehaha Commons were really involved in greeting people and moving donations. “It turned a stressful day for all of us into a very positive experience. The residents received and gave support, and we all felt more connected to the Longfellow community.” For a list of food pantries, visit this website: (Photos submitted)


Over 25,000+ bags of food were dropped off and donated at Sanford Middle School on Sunday, May 31, 2020. Laura Mylan, Cathy Carmody, and Mara Thill Bernick had the idea to provide food for the Sanford staff families. It went viral and there was plenty for others. From organizers via the Longfellow Strong Facebook page: “They filled the Sanford parking lot and wrapped around the building, filled the cafeteria, and 6 really big trucks. And, we were able to send additional truckloads to the Midway, North Minneapolis, Cedar Riverside, East Lake and more. We had mountain of cereal, and mountain of diapers. We had each other. What more could we want. Please know that this food will help families in the weeks to come as we rebuild.” More photos in the Messenger Facebook photo galleries. (Photos by Terry Faust)

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ADX Labs supports LBA

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Kim Jakus (left) of the Longfellow Business Association and Steve Renner of ADX Inc.

ADX Labs, Inc. has provided an urgently needed grant of $40,000 to the Longfellow Business Association, to aid local small businesses to recover from looting damage. The donation was made by ADX Labs’ charitable arm, the ADX Foundation.
Steven M. Renner, founder and CEO of ADX Labs and chairman of the ADX Foundation said, “The tragic death of George Floyd in police custody resulted in peaceful protests but also extensive looting and truly terrible property damage. Here in Minneapolis, the Longfellow neighborhood has been particularly hard hit. This vibrant and diverse neighborhood has largely been reduced to rubble, and residents are experiencing great difficulties sourcing food and services from the many small business owners who have seen their premises destroyed. The ADX Foundation immediately stepped up to provide a grant to the Longfellow Business Association, which has pledged that every dollar will be utilized helping local small businesses get back on their feet, so their community can thrive again.”
The Longfellow Business Association’s Executive Director Kim Jakus said, “Our association has been serving neighborhood businesses and non-profits for the last 25 years. Over the last week, around 50 of our Longfellow businesses and non-profits were looted and damaged in the wake of the violent death of George Floyd. ADX’s grant will allow us to give direct grants to businesses in Longfellow to help cover insurance deductibles, repairs, relocations and eventually help with equitable rebuilding.”
Korboi “KB” Balla, owner of fire-damaged Scores Sports Bar said, “There are a lot of unknowns right now, but the community is what gives me hope to reopen.” Balla said that when businesses were burned down, “people came from far and wide to help clean up, and it’s unreal how much the community has come together.”
John Flomer, co-owner of local restaurant Midori Floating World Café, which was also looted and destroyed, said that many residents’ main concern is losing the community they love so much. “It’s all small businesses here, and we feel like we’re bleeding in the streets and waiting for the medics,” said Flomer.
Renner concluded, “ADX Labs is committed to supporting an inclusive, diverse and thriving Twin Cities. Coming during the coronavirus pandemic, the devastation of Longfellow’s businesses has resulted in yet more unemployment, and we hope local businesses can rehire all employees. We call on other Minneapolis businesses to donate.”

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Art as empowerment

Posted on 25 June 2020 by Tesha Christensen

Artists at work: Ricardo Perez, Sebastian Rivera and volunteer Hab Wako put finishing touches on a mural honoring George Floyd at Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St.) on June 4, their last of five days creating the painting. (Photo by Jill Boogren)


Ricardo Perez talks about his art and his process in making a mural. “Sometimes there’s destruction. And there’s life that comes after that. Rather than focus on destruction, it was more about life.” (Photo by Jill Boogren)

After boarding up the windows at her firm on East Lake St., Abigail Wahl, owner of Puerta Grande Law Firm, decided to ask an artist from the community to use the space to express whatever they wanted regarding George Floyd. Artists Ricardo Perez and Sebastian Rivera, community organizers with The Alliance and West Side Community Organization, respectively, answered the call. Together with volunteers, they spent five days creating a mural on the boards.
On June 4, as they were applying the finishing touches, Perez described the mural and the process, which he said changed organically as it unfolded.
“We wanted to be very intentional about it being about Black and Brown relationships. A lot of people are curious about the cactus [featured prominently in the middle of the painting]. It kind of throws them off, like ‘Why are cactus on it? That’s not from here.’ But you know, George Floyd wasn’t from here. He was from Texas, and… Texas is the cactus. There’s also a Mexican flag… Lake St. There’s so many intersections of our identities.”
Mentioning the cityscape, Perez pointed to a detail in the upper left window of where people were being evicted. Above it, a banner reads: FREE the Oppressed. At the top of another high rise a banner reads: #BlackLivesMatter.
“Sometimes there’s destruction. And there’s life that comes after that. Rather than focus on destruction, it was more about life. That’s why we have so many plants and the city and the mountains,” Perez continued. “This is the craziest thing… these boards were put up to protect from destruction, but they became art. It became a healing element for the community.”
By email, Wahl offered her take of the mural: “To me, Ricardo Perez’s creation speaks to the solidarity between the different communities in Minneapolis and Minnesota, and the love we are feeling for George Floyd.”

Artists at work: Ricardo Perez, Sebastian Rivera and volunteer Hab Wako put finishing touches on a mural honoring George Floyd at Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St.) on June 4, their last of five days creating the painting. (Photo by Jill Boogren)

After the art comes down, Wahl said the artist will decide on its final home. Perez hopes for a permanent space to share the piece. “Not only the painting but the energy that was captured in this moment.”
Puerta Grande Law Firm (4403 E. Lake St), which offers legal representation in immigration matters, remained open throughout the uprising.

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