St.Paul tries to clean up one day after protesters looted, set fire to the city

Al Schoch
May 29, 2020 - 2:24 pm

    The Sports Dome in St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood has been a familiar sight along University Avenue for 15 years, selling sneakers, t-shirts, shorts, and other sports stuff from beneath its multi-colored checkerboard awning, its building jammed in the middle of an eclectic set of private businesses.

    St. Paul Sports Dome

    By Friday morning, parts of the awning had melted away, the building front blown apart by a raging fire that laid bare charred insides where merchandise sat heaped in ruin.

    A few blocks away, workers swept away mounds of glass shards that had made up the showroom window of the Furniture Barn.  No telling what was lifted through the shattered frames.

    Across University Avenue in the shopping center adjacent to sparkling new Allianz Field, the façade above the broken glass that fronted a shoe store was blackened, the word “Footlocker” barely visible.

    “It doesn’t feel like the ‘Saintly City’,” said Steve Blake, who’s lived some 30 years a few blocks north of the lively University/Snelling intersection. “It’s profoundly ugly, sad, and tragic.”

    Even though Blake remarked that he was at a loss for words on what happened to his city, there was one word that stood out following violence that surged several miles eastward across the Mississippi River, from a twin city racked with anger and horror from Monday's death of George Floyd while in police custody.

    “Confused,” he said.

    St. Paul police reported more than 100 fires set on Thursday night into Friday.

    There was damage.

    St. Paul Liquor

    There was looting.

    St Paul Fashion Barn

    There was devastation left behind, and a fear on what might be next.

    While some cleaned up and made preparations to protect what they had left, others began preparations for what they fear might be more of the same through the weekend.

    On upscale Grand Avenue, where locally-owned businesses were in the process of finally reopening as Minnesota edged away from the coronavirus lockdown, the sounds of chainsaws, hammers, and power screwdrivers cut through the air.

    A fair number of business owners blocked off their storefronts with long sheets of plain plywood, similar to what could be seen elsewhere when homeowners prepare for a windstorm.

    Grand Ave Boarded up

    “Both east and west of us, they hit the liquor stores and the drug stores, broke glass, stole stuff,“ said Ron George, whose family owns and operates George’s Shoe and Leather Repair. “(We) figure the weekend will be the worst of it.”

    That it’s happening at all is almost too much to handle.

    “I’m still trying to get over the virus thing,” George said. “And now we’ve got a new thing, it’s like one right after another. Not fun. We’ve been in tears the last two months over the stuff that’s been going on. This just adds to it. It’s just terrible.” Despite the heightened tension, George said most businesses along Grand Avenue plan to remain open all weekend.

    St. Paul police have also erected barriers in the block around police headquarters just north of downtown.

    The Minnesota State Fairgrounds, a week after announcing the cancellation of the 2020 Great Minnesota Get-Together because of the pandemic, has all gates locked tight.

    At least two gates are usually open in and out of the fairgrounds for traffic while allowing people a place to walk their dogs or get some exercise.

    For now, the hope is that the violence can be reduced, especially following the arrest of the Minneapolis police officer who was seen on video with his knee on the neck of George Floyd on Monday.
    “I hope that reduced the amount of looting and things that are going on,” said Michael Quinn of St. Paul. “I think that it’s really stupid that people are destroying things in response to this. I understand protesting, I don’t understand violent protesting.”

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