Minneapolis, Minnesota, US – A pop-up food pantry; a tagger who covers up profanity; an abandoned hotel that takes in homeless individuals and protesters. In between the news headlines that have thrust Minneapolis, Minnesota, into the United States national spotlight is a community that has come together to honour George Floyd by helping those in need.
Rows of tents flanked by piles of donated food, hygiene supplies, first-aid supplies and other goods line a field in Saint Paul, which neighbours Minneapolis, the city where Floyd was killed in late May.
The pop-up food pantry was started in the wake of the police killing of Floyd. The 46-year-old Black man died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly pleaded, “I can’t breathe”, before going motionless.
The killing set off protests in Minneapolis and across the country, calling for justice for Floyd and an end to police brutality. As anger exploded, some of the protests turned violent, with fires, looting and vandalism. Some local businesses were hit. Others were already under strain from coronavirus lockdowns that had been in place for months.
“People are hurtin because of George[‘s] situation … And if George Floyd would have had justice from the beginning our stores would be up. If politicians, and lawmakers, and the legal world would take our lives seriously, this wouldn’t happen,” said Shay Webbie, a local comedian, who started the Saint Paul pop-up food pantry.
What started as one tent with two tables now covers an entire field with more than a half dozen tents and trailers. Similar initiatives can be seen across Saint Paul and Minneapolis.
Hundreds of volunteers help with the Saint Paul food pantry – known on Facebook as ShayCares – and anyone in need can pick up supplies, no questions asked.
“It’s like watching your baby grow up and graduate,” said Webbie with tears in her eyes as she looked out over the field.