Communities band together to clean up their cities after a night of protests and unrest

Protests In Minneapolis After The Death Of George Floyd
Community members clean up destruction wrought from another night of continued demonstrations after African-American man George Floyd was killed while in police custody days ago in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S., May 30, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Credit: Leah Millis/Reuters

(CNN) — Brian Irving had just taken a shower when he turned on the news Friday night and learned about graffiti left from protests in downtown Houston.

Not long after, the truck driver was out in the streets with a power washer and cleaning product, according to CNN affiliate KTRK, working to wipe the graffiti away.

“What came to my mind was what (John F. Kennedy) said,” Irving told KTRK. “He said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.'”

“So I’m coming down here and putting my little bit in, you know?”

It was a scene that played out across the country Saturday morning after a night of protests demanding justice in the death of George Floyd. The Minneapolis police officer seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

But that development wasn’t enough to quell the anger of protesters in more than 30 cities, where demonstrations left charred vehicles, broken glass, litter and debris.

KTRK reported one of its photojournalists saw Irving cleaning around 2 a.m. He said he spent about four hours cleaning the city, his home of more than 50 years.

Irving said he understood the anger that has fueled protests in Minneapolis and across the country this week after Floyd’s death. But Irving didn’t understand the destruction, KTRK said.

“We can protest,” he said, “but we don’t have to destroy the city.”

‘We have to do this in unity’

While there were some hired cleaning crews, several dozen volunteers gathered in downtown Atlanta Saturday morning to clean the aftermath of Friday night protests near the CNN Center, where demonstrators clashed with police. Many of the volunteers told CNN they were with local churches.

G.J. Hawkins told CNN that he and his wife, Shanna, were at Friday’s protest before things got out of hand. At that point, he said they felt good about what happened, like they “really did write history.”

“We were super excited, and then we turned on the news and about 30 minutes later we started to see riots. We began to get very disappointed,” he said, adding, “But we don’t think those things overshadow all the good that was accomplished.”

The couple banded together with another friend and put out a call on social media for help cleaning up the city. They said many people responded and were cleaning up sites all over Atlanta.

“We feel like it’s our duty as Christ followers to not only stand up for justice but to also stand up for our city,” G.J. Hawkins said. “One of the ways we get to express that is by helping to clean up and rebuilding.”

Shanna Hawkins said she felt good about joining the clean up effort.

“As we pursue justice it’s very important for us to do this with peace,” she said. “We have to do this in unity, in love — that’s the only way we’re going to see real change.”

‘They were just coming to help each other’

Saturday wasn’t the first time this week communities worked to restore their neighborhoods after protests.

On Friday, CNN affiliate WCCO reported that communities all over Minneapolis worked together to be part of something positive after a night of destructive protests, converging on the destruction to clean up and repair the aftermath.

WCCO showed footage of volunteers boarding up broken windows, sweeping broken glass and picking up litter.

“Just the community coming together to beautify north Minneapolis has been amazing,” DeVonna Pittman told WCCO. “When we first got out here this morning it was devastating, but people showed up and folks came out here in droves. We can see the difference.”

Felicia Perry, executive director of the West Broadway Business and Area Coalition, told WCCO that she’d been confident that neighbors would respond to a call for help.

“I knew the community would come and so what you are seeing is a reflection of the work a lot of us have already been doing when we’ve been looking out for each other, when we’ve been taking care of each other, when we’ve been supporting each other’s respective work,” she said.

The mayor of St. Paul, Minnesota, at a news conference Saturday took a moment to praise communities working together to rebuild.

“Across the Twin Cities yesterday, across St. Paul yesterday, we saw countless neighbors show up for each other,” Mayor Melvin Carter said. “We saw people show up with a broom and a bucket, a rag to clean, and just work together.”

“They weren’t cleaning their cousin’s store or their uncle’s store,” he added. “They were just coming to help each other, to clean up our city.”

The-CNN-Wire
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