Mennonites in Minnesota have been lending a hand in Minneapolis neighborhood cleanup efforts after the city was rocked by violent riots and peaceful protests beginning the day after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by police May 25 while in custody.
On May 30, a group from Faith Mennonite Church in Minneapolis conducted a prayer walk on the roughly three miles between the church and the site of Floyd’s death. The group, organized by Amy Bradshaw Kaiser, joined other members of the community in picking up trash, sweeping up glass and doing other things.
“We saw hundreds of people gathering to mourn, share their food, pray together, carry plywood together, lend their power drills to strangers and be community,” Karla Hovde said. “There are times of hope in between the times of fear.”
Kaiser noted protests and destruction have impacted many parts of the city, and members of the Faith congregation have seen damage on their streets and in their neighborhoods. The congregation is located eight blocks from a police station that was burned.
“The Twin Cities community has risen to respond, and many, many activities have been organized in response,” she said. “I organized this one because it has been so hard being socially distanced from our church community during this time. Not everyone at FMC is tapped into those other community events, and I wanted to walk with my friends at Faith.”
About week later, on June 8, Mennonite Disaster Service announced volunteer opportunities in Minneapolis. MDS Minnesota chair Glenn Geissinger is coordinating MDS volunteers interested in helping clean up and rebuild uninsured businesses owned by minorities, women and immigrants that were burned.
“Some of the businesses were bigger with insurance, so MDS is not going to get involved with that,” Geissinger said of whole blocks being burned out. “They will get insurance settlements, and life will go on for them, but the little mom-and-pop and women-owned businesses have just been devastated.”
MDS is also helping deliver hot meals prepared by a local restaurant for volunteers doing cleanup work. That project began June 9. Both activities are in partnership with NECHAMA (COMFORT), Jewish Response to Disaster.