By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s impossible to erase the memories of almost a week’s worth of chaos and destruction. But with a paint roller, John Ramsey will at least try.

“I’m just out here to help the community,” Ramsey said, spattered in paint.

Graffiti is everywhere the protests have occurred, so he’ll paint over bad words and keep the good.

“That’s one of the things nobody else seemed to be doing was painting over the things that say ‘burn down this building’ or those types of negative things,” Ramsey said.

Just as businesses from University to Grand Avenue were about to come back from months of coronavirus shutdown, they’re being boarded up by utter chaos.

Owners like Evelyn Quinones, who runs the Phil Oriental Foods store on University, are still fearful of being targeted and torched.

So furloughed theatre technicians who formed the group “University Rebuilt” just a few days ago, are helping her out.

“Right now I’m hoping that nobody would try to vandalize our business,” Quinones said.

She needn’t look far for a reason for deep concern. The twisted steel and charred ruins of a NAPA Auto Parts store are a stark reminder. And up the road, the Midway Target appears more a fortress. Police officers are stationed near the entrance, protected by concrete barriers.

When Quinones was asked if she feels better with her store now boarded up, she answered with a simple, “yes!”

Volunteers are all along the University Avenue, clearing debris and sweeping up. John Michels came in from New Prague to pitch in.

“I would like to do the Lord’s work while I can because it’s the right thing to do and I don’t care about the politics right now,” Michels said.

And near St. Claire and Dunlap, alert neighbors reported two suspicious parked cars. With no license plates, evidence of police paint and a shattered passenger window, both vehicles were likely used to transport troublemakers.

Van Evans, who reported the vehicles to St. Paul Police, said “As a community everybody has to be aware. We have to track this and have to all work together collectively.”

Bill Hudson