Three years later, some businesses in north Minneapolis are still recovering from the riots
Three years ago, riots broke out in the Twins Cities area after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd on May 25. Although the focus was primarily on south Minneapolis, small businesses in north Minneapolis also suffered damage and casualties.
Since then, government funding has helped some Northside businesses reopen. But others are not quite yet.
Tara Watson owns a building on West Broadway which houses several of her businesses including Watson Chiropractic and Anytime Fitness. She recalled the emotions surrounding the uprising.
“There was fear, people just didn’t feel safe. People were very upset,” Watson said. “People didn’t feel safe with the police, there was just a lot going on at once.”
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Molotov cocktails and thrown objects damaged the ceiling of their building. Watson said she could not secure funding to repair the roof. The cost is over $100,000, she estimated.
“I wasn’t able to get help with that or use it and find anyone willing to do that,” she said. “I mean, we’re still hopeful, but we didn’t make it.”
The insurance, she added, doesn’t cover riot damage.
“Fortunately, the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition had effective funding to help,” said Watson.
Tara Watson, who owns several small businesses in north Minneapolis, is seen in front of her property.
Regina Medina | MPR News
She received grants to repair damage and beautify the front of the building, including new signage and improved exterior lighting.
Ousman Camara recalls learning how George Floyd was killed.
“When I woke up in the middle of the night to pray, I saw the video,” Camara said.
Later that day, he received a text message from a customer. She told him that businesses near his West Broadway store had been broken into. Camara rushed from his home in Brooklyn Center to K’s Grocery and Deli.
Five customers helped him keep watch inside K’s for the first week while the scene outside was intense. Shots filled the air. Pickup trucks whizzed through the streets.
In the second week, the group only had two loyal customers. Her presence allowed him to shower daily and spend time with his family.
Camara, a witness to the civil war in his home country of Sierra Leone, sat by the front window with the lights on. He did this for more than 30 days.
After months of surveillance of his business was over, he said K’s deli had been vandalized on multiple occasions. They smashed his front windows.
Ousman Camara, owner of K’s Grocery and Deli in north Minneapolis, stands in front of the deli that serves African dishes.
Regina Medina | MPR News
“Once they stole an ATM from the store,” he said. “My cash register has been broken into several times. It was just about stealing things that are available.”
Aid came in the form of grants and soft loans from neighborhood groups like the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, the Northside Economic Opportunity Network, and other agencies.
Camara was able to replace the broken windows and the glass front door. He also got bars for the windows and a roller door that prevents break-ins. And he repaired the cash register system and installed an external camera system. Grants also helped pay bills.
Now he feels safe.
“It has helped a lot since then. It was good,” he said.
According to 2020 tax forms, the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition awarded $541,174 to 33 recipients. Those funds were North Minneapolis-based companies that were “affected by the riots that followed the killing of George Floyd.”
A view of the West Broadway area of north Minneapolis on May 3rd.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News
Warren McLean, president of the Northside Economic Opportunity Network, said many organizations have responded.
“A sustained effort is being made to ensure black and BIPOC businesses truly get the funding they need. And that’s a tremendous push…on the part of local governments and especially the state, which has really gone to great lengths to provide grants,” McLean said. “Hennepin County did it. And then so did the city of Minneapolis.”
Despite everything she’s been through, Watson firmly believes in the Northside and its future.
“I think we dug our way out of the trenches. I really do. I think that’s great,” she said. “I’m excited to see what awaits us at the end because we’re almost there. And I think it’s just going to be a better opportunity, a better community, a better Northside, a better Southside.”
Camara appreciates his clients’ concern for him during and after the riots.
“So the neighborhood for me, I love it. I’m not going to move for nothing,” he said.