Minneapolis is trying to recover after days of George Floyd protests – one bag of garbage and one food donation at a time

MINNEAPOLIS — At the end of a week that roiled this city of 400,000, there were people carrying brooms and garbage bags on a sunny Sunday.

Jack Manderscheid, a University of Minnesota senior, exemplified the spirit of the day by meticulously walking through the Uptown neighborhood filling up four trash bags that he carried on his bicycle.

“I’ve never really seen a community come together,” said Manderscheid, a native of suburban Edina who woke up Sunday intent on finding one gesture to help put the city.

There have been five nights of anguished protests following the Monday death of George Floyd, a black man whose neck was knelt on for nearly nine minutes by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer. Manderscheid had attended a demonstration earlier in the week, but the fumes from tear gas used by police officers bothered him. So had the large crowds during a time when he is trying to keep his distance from people over fears of spreading the new coronavirus.

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He instead decided to clean the streets and sidewalks, only to find that hundreds of others had the same idea.

“The longer this goes on, the more I realize I’m going to remember this the rest of my life,” Manderscheid said.

Meanwhile, Dan Halvorsen picked up trash and swept away debris along with seven other members of his church in suburban Bloomington.

“We wanted to perform a good deed. Our hearts are just breaking about this whole situation,” he said. “By the time we got here, the response has been so amazing, that there wasn’t a big need for us.”

Other residents found a way to help by providing food, diapers and other essentials in a city where most stores and restaurants are closed.

That’s how Tracy Gray Knutson found herself an unwitting, but perfectly willing, Santa Claus of sorts. Knutson, 40, sat down on a chair on the sidewalk outside a boarded-up Franklin Avenue café, planning to rest her sunburned feet. Above her, a large sign read: “Free Food and Stuff.”

Tracy Gray Knutson sat down to rest beneath this sign in south Minneapolis on Sunday and soon found herself dispensing a bounty of donated food and diapers.
Tracy Gray Knutson sat down to rest beneath this sign in south Minneapolis on Sunday and soon found herself dispensing a bounty of donated food and diapers.

Residents of the south Minneapolis neighborhood surveyed the scene and decided that Knutson was in charge of a popup pantry. Soon, they descended on her with sacks of bread, beans and other groceries, plus diapers, bottled water and even more garbage bags ready to be filled.

Knutson, who said she is recently homeless, enjoyed giving the goods away to a line of people who politely approached her, asking if it was really free.

“Anything you want, brother. Take anything,” she implored one hesitant man. “I love you.”

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A few blocks away on Franklin Avenue, an east-west thoroughfare lined with stores that now sit empty, Alan Gross oversaw an impromptu food shelf that quickly resembled a warehouse.

Gross, 52, jokingly called himself a barista/counselor/bouncer at two businesses that share a building: Powwow Grounds Coffee and All My Relations Gallery. The latter is a large space that typically displays American Indian art. It was shuttered in March after the COVID-19 threat forced the closure of museums and galleries in Minnesota. The art has been relocated, although Gross hopes to reopen soon.

On Sunday, the floor was rapidly filling with food brought in by the carload from people eager to help. It all happened over the course of 72 hours, after word went out on Facebook that the gallery would serve as a distribution point for groceries in the neighborhood.

Gross was surprised by the amount of donated food but philosophical about the motivation of his fellow Minnesotans.

“Pitching in, believing that there’s a better way to do things, I think that’s the draw,” he said. “Everyone’s got to have a cause.”

This article originally appeared on USATNetwork: George Floyd: Minneapolis unites to find 'a better way' after protests