Minneapolis was burning, and Georgette Norwood was out of diapers and milk.
“I need baby milk especially,” she said, standing just up the block from the boarded-up Cub Foods, the boarded-up Walmart, the boarded-up dollar store, the boarded-up pharmacy and the boarded-up gas station in her north Minneapolis neighborhood.
Neighbors and volunteers swirled around her, piling diapers, peanut butter, bottled water and other donations in the parking lot of a boarded-up U.S. Bank building off Broadway. Free for the taking, for anyone who needed the help.
“We’ll be doing this every day until we can get our stores up and running again,” said Shay Webbie, a St. Paul comedian and one of the organizers of donation drop-off sites meant to restore some of what the neighborhood lost to the looters and arsonists.
“We just want to make sure our community has what they need, since they destroyed it,” Webbie said. They — the people who smash and grab and burn and run and leave mothers like Georgette Norwood with nowhere to buy baby milk for miles in any direction.
Maybe they were locals lashing out or outside agitators or cartels or white supremacists looking to start a race war. We’ll figure who they are later.
Who they are is less important than who we are.
Minneapolis is an army of volunteers with brooms and shovels who show up after each night’s chaos to clear the sidewalks of broken glass and rubble.
Minneapolis is neighbors fighting fires with garden hoses.
The governor called in the National Guard. Military and police helicopters circle us ceaselessly.
But no one really expects them to save us. They had four nights and they didn’t save our grocery stores, our shops, our restaurants, libraries, post offices, community centers or our art galleries.
If anyone’s going to save us, it’s going to have to be us.
Saturday morning in Powderhorn, neighbors met in the park to swap survival tips: Wet down your lawns with hoses tonight, keep all the lights on and all the pets inside, pack a go-bag in case you have to evacuate in a hurry.
Minneapolis City Councilman Jeremiah Ellison spent Friday night circling the North Side, putting out fires.
Neighbors protected Midtown Global Market from successive waves of looters. Volunteers mobilized by the American Indian Movement report they caught a group of white teens trying to break into a neighborhood liquor store and called their mothers back in Wisconsin to come and pick them up.
Through another long and terrible night, we saved us from them.