Early on the afternoon of May 29, a St. Paul firefighter trained a hose on shops that were torched the night before on University Avenue just east of Snelling Avenue. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Midway, Grand Avenue, Highland Village among the hardest hit as rioting spreads from South Minneapolis

By Jane McClure

Scores of businesses across the Villager area are still tallying the damage after four days of vandalism, arson and looting from May 27-30 following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. The black man’s death on May 25, with a police officer kneeling on his neck, was recorded by bystanders and subsequently posted on social media. It sparked days of peaceful protests and marches but also rioting that spread from the site of Floyd’s death in South Minneapolis throughout the Twin Cities.

The four police officers involved in Floyd’s arrest were fired by the department. One officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three were later charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. By then, the Twin Cities had erupted in violence fueled by agitators in the crowd armed with rocks, bricks and incendiary material. The National Guard arrived late on May 28, but was not effectively deployed until May 29.

Some of the most intense confrontations played out late on May 29 when St. Paul police stopped protesters from crossing the Lake Street Bridge over the Mississippi River. The police made arrests and used tear gas to disperse the crowd and acted quickly to close other bridges into the city.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell called the level of arson, vandalism and looting “unprecedented” and said there would be consequences for those responsible. “We won’t tolerate people being injured in this city. We won’t tolerate buildings being burned down,” he said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter praised residents and business people for helping out during and after the riots and for complying with the nightly curfews that were imposed from May 29 to June 5. He said the police and firefighters served the city with “incredible distinction.” Acknowledging citizens’ grief, anger and trauma, he urged everyone to “take this energy and channel it towards building a better future.”

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell called the level of arson, vandalism and looting “unprecedented” and said there would be consequences for those responsible. “We won’t tolerate people being injured in this city. We won’t tolerate buildings being burned down,” he said.

 

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“It’s been an extraordinary week in many ways,” said St. Paul City Council president Amy Brendmoen, who spent much of her time during the unrest at the city’s emergency command center. She and other members of the City Council have been out recording the damage, helping with cleanup and contemplating the steps the city can take to prevent more tragedies tied to police brutality.

St. Paul did not suffer to the extent that Minneapolis did from the arson, vandalism and looting. It helped that it had one more day to prepare with businesses and institutions throughout the city boarding up windows and doors. In the wake of the rioting, local district councils, business associations and other civic groups organized crews of volunteers to sweep up glass and pick up debris in the Midway area and Highland Village and on Grand Avenue and the West End.

University Avenue businesses sustained the heaviest damage on May 28-29. Midway Shopping Center was hit hard. The Foot Locker was looted and set ablaze. The neighboring Great Clips, Rainbow clothing shop, GameStop Midway and Peking Garden restaurant were heavily damaged. Big Top Liquor was looted and set ablaze.

On the north side of University, Midway Tobacco, DTLR, Sports Dome, Boost Mobile, Maxx It Pawn, Culver’s restaurant and other businesses were left in ruins. Snelling Avenue Fine Wines and Spirits and CVS Pharmacy were vandalized and looted, as were Ax-Man Surplus and Metro Lighting and Sound to the west. Lloyd’s Pharmacy, which had stood for 102 years at Snelling and Minnehaha avenues, was burned to the ground.

Businesses were looted and fires were set at Midway Marketplace. Cub Foods, Dollar Tree, TJ Maxx and the Healtheast Clinic were hit hard. At University and Hamline Avenue, a fire was set at the UPS Store, Discount Tire was vandalized and looted, and America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses and LeeAnn Chin restaurant sustained heavy damage. Furniture Barn was looted and set on fire. Midway SuperTarget was looted and vandalized, as were the nearby Verizon store, Noodles and Company restaurant and Vitamin Shop. A shuttered BP service station was also vandalized.

Stores and restaurants on the first floor of an apartment building at University and Hamline sustained damage. The building at University and Syndicate Street that housed Bole restaurant, NAPA Auto Parts and Jackson Hewitt was destroyed by fire. Windows were smashed at the Goodwill Store. Enterprise rental car was damaged by fire. Ananya Dance Theater was vandalized. A wig shop was looted and set on fire,

Gordon Parks School was damaged by vandals and fire. Aldi grocery store was vandalized. The UnBank, White Castle restaurant and TCF Bank at University and Lexington Parkway were damaged. O’Reilly Auto Parts was vandalized and set on fire.

Speedway gas stations and convenience stores were damaged at Snelling and Portland avenues, Snelling and Ford Parkway and Lexington Parkway and Central Avenue. The Speedway at Grand and Cleveland avenues was set on fire, as was the Speedway at University and Chatsworth Street. The Grand-Cleveland store is believed to be a total loss. Holiday Station Stores throughout the area were also vandalized and looted, with some of the worst damage to the store at Snelling and Iglehart avenues.

Small businesses on University all the way to the state Capitol sustained damage, as did the Uni-Dale Mall. The 7-Mile clothing store at Uni-Dale was looted and vandalized.

Walgreens pharmacies at Randolph and Snelling, Grand Avenue and Grotto Street, and Ford Parkway and Cleveland Avenue were vandalized and looted, as were the CVS Pharmacy at 1040 Grand Ave. Grand and West 7th Pharmacy at 1106 W. Seventh St.

A masked demonstrator at a peaceful protest in front of the state Capitol on June 2 advocated for activism. Photo by Lou Michaels

Many Grand Avenue businesses sustained property damage and looting, including Lululemon at Victoria Street, Gold’n Treasures at Avon Street, and First Grand Avenue Liquor Store at Milton Street. 

Trader Joe’s at Randolph and Lexington was vandalized and looted. Liquor Barrel at West Seventh and St. Clair Avenue was vandalized and looted.

Selby-Snelling area businesses reported window damage, as did businesses along Marshall Avenue. Further east on Selby, Mississippi Market and Claddagh Coffee sustained damage. Several businesses were damaged at St. Clair and Cleveland avenues. Willie’s Guitars was hard hit with vandalism and looting.

The Fixery in Highland Village was heavily damaged with extensive vandalism and looting on the night of May 28-29. Photo by Brad Stauffer

A vehicle was set on fire in the TruStone parking lot in Highland Village. R.F. Moeller Jeweler, the Fixery and Verizon stores had rocks thrown through their windows and were looted. International Wine and Spirits was vandalized and looted. Bakers Square restaurant was vandalized and set on fire.

The Fixery was extensively damaged. Longtime employee Mark Wilsey said that while the watches, clocks and jewelry dropped off by customers for repair were spared, the store’s glass counters, cases and windows were all smashed and almost all of the store merchandise was stolen. “This was a major blow to our business,” he said.

Wilsey has set up a GoFundMe page for the Fixery and owner Mark Kafka. As of Villager deadline the fund drive had raised almost half of its $10,000 goal.

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