This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

For a week, the Block Bunnies ruled

There was no escaping the wailing sirens, thumping helicopters, growling military trucks, stinging smoke and, every now and then, the hollow pop of a pistol.

For a week in Minneapolis, it went on and on. And through it all, the “Block Bunnies” stood vigil. Twenty-seven neighbors, previously unknown to one another but now organized and in tight communication, wearing yellow shirts and walking around our blocks in two-hour shifts, stood ready to call the alarm bringing all of us to the rescue.

We were ready. Our garden hoses were linked and used to soak down the large, alley trash bins, our own garbage containers stashed in our garages, and our alleys cleared of anything flammable. In the back of our yards were buckets filled with water to quickly douse the small flare-ups. We were ready — old and young, the biker crew on the corner, the apartment dwellers — all of us willing to take risks to protect one another.

We can take credit for saving at least three businesses from being trashed, looted or burned. Attempts were met with banging pans and shouts while cameras rolled. Off they went.

But in the shadows of the night, disturbing activities told another story. A van pull­ing over with two men jumping out and quickly changing their license plates. Plastic water bottles filled with gasoline, stored in backpacks and stashed under bushes. White men using tools to cut holes in the bases of buildings and inserting incendiary devices. These were not random acts of outrage. These were organized teams burning minority-owned businesses.

Members of our Block Bunnies interrupted just such an attempt on a clinic frequented by the Somali community. The small militia teams would hit and disappear. These were the guys changing license plates. No arrests would be made. They were gone before the police arrived.

Finally, calm was restored. It was over and time to celebrate. We all showed up on the blacktop parking lot, drinking cheap beer, wolfing down bags of chips. The biker crew on the corner put on a fire show for us. They let us know all was safe because they were bonded and insured. Torches and wheels of fire twirling were passed back and forth, a contrast to the smoke and fires of the week. They wanted to show their appreciation for the welcome and trust we showed them all week long. They were the heroes of the week.

So there we were, keeping our distance but demonstrating pride and unity. The Block Bunnies ruled for a week!

Rudy “Neil” Okerlund lives a block from Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis, where he is a member.

Sign up to our newsletter for important updates and news!