UMN students show up to help Minneapolis recover, rebuild after protests

From cleaning up the debris of burned buildings to donating groceries and other goods for riot-affected communities, students are lending a hand.

Jackson Hampton, right, works near the Hi-Lake Shopping Center in East Lake Street, just a few blocks from the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct, to help clear debris from the burned-down businesses on Sunday, May 31.

Yves De Jesus

Jackson Hampton, right, works near the Hi-Lake Shopping Center in East Lake Street, just a few blocks from the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct, to help clear debris from the burned-down businesses on Sunday, May 31.

Yves De Jesus

Recent University of Minnesota graduate Mariam Karkache, along with her friends, recent graduate Noah Carpenter and Madie Pipenhagen, drove to a grocery store Sunday morning and loaded up their car with bread, bags of rice, canned goods and personal care items. The total came to about $300.

But, the grocery trip was not for them.

Students and community members have been finding ways to support the many communities affected by the riots and looting triggered last week by the killing of George Floyd, who died in police custody after being pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police officers. 

“We saw that there were kids that live in this area, by the 3rd Precinct, and we know a lot of businesses were looted, and they don’t have access to food and necessities,” Karkache said.

Karkache and her friends brought their donations to Sanford Middle School, about a mile and a half from the 3rd Precinct. The school partnered with local nonprofit The Sheridan Story to collect and distribute donations to children living in the area who have little access to nearby grocery stores, in addition to other impacted communities.

The University students were among the thousands of other community members who dropped off grocery bags of food and supplies ready to be sent to the affected communities. 

Over at the Hi-Lake Shopping Center, rising fourth-year student Jackson Hampton helped clean out the debris from a burned-down thrift store alongside hundreds of other volunteers, using brooms and shovels to clear up cement sludge. Hampton had seen a Snapchat story of people cleaning up and wanted to do his part as well.

“Like all of Minneapolis, we’re all in this together,” Hampton said. “And it really makes me feel great knowing that the community has each other’s backs.”

University alum Laila Hernandez and Janet Nguyen and chemistry major Jessica Marty shared the sentiments. The three were also in the clean-up crowd, flushing out the ankle-deep water that had accumulated from store sprinklers.

“I think it’s just a matter of showing up for the community. This is Minneapolis — it’s home,” Nguyen said. “There’s a lot of ways to show up in the community rather than just sitting behind the screen and saying, ‘Justice for George Floyd.’”

In group settings like these, where social distancing is far more difficult to maintain, the students said that taking the risk is worth it in order to “help a community that’s hurting.”

“I think it’s morally right for me to be here if I’m willing to make the sacrifice, and I don’t have any underlying health conditions that prevent me from going out,” Nguyen said.

Students out volunteering over the weekend said that seeing Minneapolis residents band together, through volunteer cleanup and abundant donations, was an inspiring sight – one that further pushed them to continue helping and advocating for those impacted by the events of the previous week.

“I’m kind of just like soaking it all in,” Karkache said, watching as hundreds of grocery bags slowly cover the parking lot of the middle school. “And it’s a lot to process right now, but it’s a beautiful thing.”