A City Burning

Other related posts at May 27, 30 and May 31.

May 30, 2020: I have lived, worked and travelled a great deal  in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area of over 3,000,000 people for most of the last 55 years, and I am not living in fear today, nor have I in the past.  This is a time for all of us to open our eyes, especially those of us who are “white”, and there is an opening for us to do so.  I highly recommend watching those talks about racism referred to in the original post (below), which you can do anywhere you are reading this.  Overnight came a summary of the national scene, Finally Falling Apart,  This moment is an opportunity, not a crisis.  Yes, it requires change in attitudes and behaviors – our own.  We’re up to it.


Wednesday I went down to the State Capitol Grounds to take photos of a monument I’d first noticed on Memorial Day.  Here is one of the panels.

Minnesota Workers Memorial Garden, State Capitol St. Paul MN, May 27, 2020

After the photo I drove over to the place where George Floyd was killed by police Memorial Day, 38th and Chicago Ave S in Minneapolis.  An orderly crowd blocked the intersection.  I got within half a block.

I returned home on Lake Street, passing by 27th and Lake, half a block from a restaurant very well known to me, Gandhi Mahal, on 27th, a half block south of Lake Street.  Gandhi Mahal was a community gathering place; COVID-19 had closed it, as all restaurants in mid-March.  I had to cancel a meeting scheduled there for April 15.  I had frequently used it for dinner meetings in the past.

A couple of blocks earlier, about the corner of Lake and Minnehaha, I noticed some young people with signs beginning to gather at the corner.  I didn’t realize at the time that nearby was the 3rd Precinct of the Minneapolis police department.

Last night we watched the fire rage in the Gandhi Mahal neighborhood on television.  At this moment, I don’t know the fate of Gandhi Mahal; however the block literally across the street from it was consumed in flames when last I watched.  [see update at the end of this post.]. This week has been a sickening time for me.

Minneapolis will continue to be dominant international news in the wake of the the George Floyd killing in broad daylight by Minneapolis police two days ago.

I wrote about it at this space Wednesday.

This morning an e-mail from my sister in New York:  “My comment is very short. There are things that are just plain WRONG….this is one of them.”

There is nothing more to say at this moment, except to urge every reader to take the time, this weekend, to watch the six talks on American Racism, all linked within Wednesday’s blog. Please take a look again, or for the first time.  Watch the talks.

Then reflect, and act.  Where do YOU fit in?

State Capitol St. Paul MN May 27, 2020

POSTNOTE after my walk: I’m a creature of habit.  After posting this blog, I glanced at the morning paper.  Gandhi Mahal apparently wasn’t damaged.  Most of the property damage was along Lake Street, not far from the restaurant and in the “Uptown” area about 3 miles west.  Of course, as in any traumatic event, there is shock, and then infinite numbers of opinions, which leads to the very real dilemma left to any one who wasn’t there but has the responsibility of sorting things out.  I have my opinion, you have yours.  That’s all I’ll say for now, except to urge you to watch the six talks on Racism.  Whatever your opinion, this is not an isolated incident in the history of our country.

Here’s an old graphic I like to use in similar situations.  We’re beginning the “RECOIL-TURMOIL” phase.

UPDATE 1:15 pm.  A friend just called to note that the GandhiMahal Facebook page announced that the restaurant was at minimum damaged by fire last night, though it is still not listed as a fire casualty in the paper.    Here is the Star Tribune article. For those on Facebook, you can read more here.

The Minnesota Governors briefing and update late this morning was very useful in identifying the very complex nature of taking action in a crisis of the sort we witnessed overnight, including the opportunistic involvement of anarchists and looters (two specific and not necessarily related ‘groups’ who are unverifiable, and thus potentially ‘false flags’ by those seeking to blame someone).  The Governor, who himself served 24 years in the Minnesota National Guard, and who was backed by people like the State Patrol and Minnesota National Guard and others, talked about assorted chains of authority and responsibility in a civil society, from local police and sheriff, to mayors, on and on and on.  Nothing is ever as simple as it appears to be in a tweet, or a complaint.  Yes, there were mistakes, and there will always be mistakes, but not willful.

Personally, I was witness to this kind of complexity very often in my day to day job years ago.  What was initially presented as an absolute right/wrong dichotomy, etc., was never so clear, the closer one got to the actual situation, and actors.  I’d simply advise everyone to be  careful about a rush to judgement, and assessing blame, though it is very tempting.

COMMENTS (additional comments at end of post)

from Laura: Prayers for a city to be healed.

from Adam: I really appreciate the visual you shared. Quite insightful.

from Jermitt: Thanks for sharing your personal experience with us.

from Mary, who lives in the area: It is my library postoffice, Aldi’s, police station and bike tire pump.

from Darleen:  Yes, the police officer is rightfully charged and the 3 officers with him or close to him would have been wise to tell him to stop as a compassionate request for human lifeI did not see the event the night it happened.   I watched some of it today and did see the knee on the neck.   The officer was out of order.   The autopsy did not indicate that death was caused by strangulation.   The trial will definitely be interesting.

from Fred:  Thanks, as always, for your perceptive commentary. We just might be seeing the start of a “long hot summer”—late 1960s style. It is tragic. Our Dear Leader just offered a unifying statement noting that cities being hit are run by Democrats.  I remember the night Dave and I took the wives to attend a dinner at Gandhi Mahal with you. It honored your German-author friend.


6 replies
  1. norm w hanson
    norm w hanson says:

    I can certainly understand the reasons for the protest of the handling of the fellow by the police that led to his death. Just like Mayor Carter has stated, I cannot understand why folks elected to destroy the neighborhood stores that were their sources of food and supplies. Some of those stores might elect to not re-open laving the community with another deficit of services. That kind of behavior, that is, the lawlessness involving property damage and injuries in some cases, makes no sense to me no matter how passionate is the protesting or what has built up to the flow over that we are now witnessing. That kind of behavior that has made the national and international news is a feather in Trump’s 2020 re-election hat as folks who will understand the reasons for peaceful protesting, will not tolerate the destruction of neighborhoods by some of the protestors. Hence, his tweet, that once the looting starts so should the shooting…as he knows darn well that makes lots of sense to many voters and they will support him on the assumption that he will not allow that it happen and/or to make sure the anarchists amongst the protestors are arrested, tried and sent away to prison. The violence created by some of the protestors that has made the local, state, national and international news is essentially a big plus for Trump.

  2. Judy Berglund
    Judy Berglund says:

    I saw on TV this morning that Gandhi Mahal was destroyed, and it’s owner stated that he was sad, but the loss is worth it if it in some way helped the cause of the protesters.

  3. Vincent Petersen
    Vincent Petersen says:

    Have there been any clergy or church sponsored non violent response teams in the streets there? In solidarity with the angry crowds and trying to direct their anger and rage toward positive ways of protest?

  4. Nancy Dunlavy
    Nancy Dunlavy says:

    Here’s a post that I saw on Facebook today — very important message:

    ‎Jesse Haug‎ to Lowertown, Saint Paul
    9 hrs
    A reminder that on nights like these, there are multiple distinct groups in action, with distinct goals and behaviors. Do not confuse one with another.

    I’d group them into at least 5 categories.

    ACTIVISTS: They have clear goals, at least in their own heads. They are out to be heard and noticed. They may be nonviolent. If there is property damage, it will be targeted. Diff activists may have diff targets, but it won’t be indiscriminate.

    GRIEVING CITIZENS: They aren’t (yet) organized activists. They’re hurting deeply. They haven’t been heard. They have more anger than they know what to do with. They may cause unjust damage, even though their anger comes from a place of justice.

    ROWDY IDIOTS: They don’t give a shit about justice. They just want to fuck shit up. They’ll mingle with the activists, even though activists are ultimately a nuisance to them. They’ll come like moths to a light any time things are going off the rails.

    CHAOS AGENTS: Like rowdy idiots, they want to fuck shit up. But like activists, they have a goal and are self-controlled. They’re here to escalate, create an opening, make others look bad. Prime examples: alt-right instigators and crooked police. (There’s overlap.)

    PROFESSIONAL THIEVES: Whenever there’s chaos, there’s an opportunity to make a buck. Some of the “looting” has actually been well-organized, coordinated hits: post a lookout, designated grabber, getaway car.

    There may be more groups I’ve overlooked.

    I say all of this to point out the danger of using the word “protesters” for everyone out there tonight. If, for example, you say, “protesters need to stop burning buildings,” which of these groups are you are referring to? Be specific, not vague or generalizing.

    Above all, be careful that you do not wrongly ascribe to ACTIVISTS and GRIEVING CITIZENS the actions of the other three groups. That is just what those other groups want.

    The need for justice is real. The grief is real. Take them seriously. Respect them.

    Addendum: just in case it’s not obvious, the first two groups are the vast majority of people out there — but the last three cause the vast majority of damage.

  5. Jane Peck
    Jane Peck says:

    There have been many church-led non-violent groups in the protests. There have been many separate non-violent protests up there. This weekend they were all during the day, before curfew. The problem is that the numbers have been so huge that no citizen leaders are able to control the huge and diverse group, which includes thugs.
    The Gandhi Mahal owner was interviewed by the NY Times. He was feeding protestors and offering medical care the first two nights, before it became so violent. One of many heroes.


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