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Rated: 13+ · Letter/Memo · Biographical · #2279202
Memoir-ish dispatches from an international flashpoint
Dear Dad,

I have been keeping an eye on things up here since George Floyd's death. So far the protests are par for the course. One thing a lot of people outside the Twin Cities don't recognize is that there's a pretty established protest culture in town. It also exists in St. Paul, and I naively got caught up in it during the 2008 Republican National Convention. The bus I was on got pelted with rocks and trash, so I admit I'm not super happy about any sort of protest thanks to that experience. Don't get me started on the Occupy bullshit. In any case, the protest itself isn't near my house, so it's pretty easy to avoid for the time being (especially with social distancing). Still, what happened to Floyd truly was uncalled for, a special kind of despicable. So at least in this case the protests are a bit more logical. I don't necessarily think protests do much good, but this one seems a bit less stupid than the Occupy stuff. I just want them to stay out of my hair. That's all.

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Dear Dad,

The protests are continuing, and things are getting more intense. I admit it's strange to read statements from people at the health department telling people that if they must join the protest to wear a mask and stay six feet apart. I wish they'd told this to the idiots who decided to hold a rally outside the capitol to reopen businesses and what not. Those idiots. I still wish I'd gotten the courage to show up and drape those protesters' cars with pieces of astroturf. Then again, getting enough astroturf for that in Minnesota is a logistical challenge, at least if I want to do things quickly. Getting back to this protest, the reports I've seen show more and more people descending on Lake Street. It's starting to (frankly) look kind of unsafe. The rhetoric is getting more direct and pointed. I'm concerned mob mentality might take over. It seems like Metro Transit may have the same concerns. There are whispers that they may stop service altogether. I suppose that makes sense given that both bus and train lines converge on Lake Street. There are also nearby garages and other Metro Transit buildings near the protest site. I mean, I haven't been on a bus in almost three months, leaving space for people who have to use the bus to get to/from work and other essential trips. I've been doing my part. Still, I'm not sure what to make of these recent developments. I really hope it doesn't get violent, but I feel like I'm teetering on the edge here.

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Dear Dad,

Last night I had a counseling session where my counselor and I discussed the mindsets of protesters right now. I expressed a desire to go down there and try to talk these people down, but I also worried that if I did that I would not come home. Yeah, I feel like doing that sort of thing would cost me my life. Given what I saw out the window when I woke up this morning, my fears were justified. I hadn't been sleeping well much of the night, but around three I found myself awake due to all the sirens I could hear going off. We live not too far from the fire station for our neighborhood, so we hear sirens a lot. It's not usually all of the vehicles all at once, though. I got up and checked the news on my phone. Buildings on Lake Street were on fire. At the time, it was hard to see just how much was on fire. A few hours later, and I could see smoke from the living room window. We bought the condo for the view. The view should not include gigantic columns of thick, grey smoke that you can see even over the trees. It's been a rough day. We had to drive into the suburbs to find an open grocery store. There's nothing open in town right now. Even gas stations are shutting down (after a couple of them got set on fire). I had to text my boss and tell her I would be late in starting work because of getting food and what not. I decided I had to get food today because who knows when anything will actually be open again? I will say Home Depot was open this morning. That way, people could buy wood to board up their businesses and what not. That feels like a very Floridian sentence to say. Yikes. We also packed getaway bags in case the condo caught on fire or we had to leave for other reasons. Leaving could be a nightmare, though, as there are now curfews in place. Dammit. I'm tired just thinking about it all. I'm probably going to get some sleep soon, but that's only because I'm physically too exhausted to keep my head up much longer.

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Dear Dad,

Well, we made it through the night. It's gotten worse. More buildings were damaged or destroyed, including a couple of stores near us. Nothing was burned in our neighborhood, but there were definitely broken windows and other forms of vandalism. Lake Street, well, I haven't been, but I've see the pictures. It looks like hell. Concrete burned. I didn't know concrete could even burn. So many things right around that police precinct are barely even shells of themselves anymore. The grocery stores have been plundered and flooded (thanks to their fire suppression systems). I suspect some of the people grabbed milk from those stores to give first aid to the people who got gassed and sprayed by the police. A few reports have started to emerge with photos of who may have started the fires. This person was dressed in all black and had on a gas mask. He (most likely a guy, judging by build and posture) also carried an umbrella despite the fact that there is literally no rain in the forecast either in the last three days or in the next ten. He stood outside an auto parts store and appeared to have matches or a lighter along with some combustible liquid. Dude bro was clearly there to start trouble. It sounds like he may not have been the only one, either. Stores within walking distance are still closed, so we had to venture to the suburbs again to go get a carrot cake for tomorrow. God, how is tomorrow going to go? I can barely even think about the fact that my birthday is coming up when I'm being bombarded with new reports of another business either damaged or destroyed. That's not to say residences haven't been immune to all this. People are finding gas masks in their trash, and more cars without license plates have been spotted in neighborhoods. Curfew continues, so we'll see what happens tonight. Hopefully people can get their shit together so more of the city doesn't get rendered to ashes.

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Dear Dad,

I'm another year older, but it honestly feels more like a decade. Century? Who the hell knows? Since there was way more aggressive action to prevent vandalism and arson, the damage last night was nowhere near as extensive. So I took a walk in my neighborhood, amazingly managing to dodge the protests that are starting to creep into the area. I'll get to that in a minute. When I walked around, things were rather quiet. A few people hung out in the parks but nothing like a month ago when people flooded the parks in an attempt to get out of their damn houses. Some places in the neighborhood are reopening but only for limited hours. Others are still closed, their boarded up windows painted in many cases. Some are simple hashtags, such #icantbreathe. Then there are more elaborate paintings, interpretations of George Floyd in happier contexts. I saw one of him holding something with a smiley face on it. That one added sadness to my ebbing initial shock and terror. It made going for a walk elsewhere later on feel more melancholy than it might have otherwise. Still, uncertainty and a constant feeling of being on edge persist. One of the bridges from downtown to my part of the city has become a protest hotspot, and there was even a protest on the nearby freeway. That one became especially newsworthy just a couple hours ago when an empty gas truck evaded barricades that were being set up and headed right into the crowds. Amazingly, no one was hurt, but that part of the freeway is at most a half mile from the condo. I shudder to think of the round of sirens that would have ensued had someone been injured or killed by that plowing, if you will. CLearly the barricades to keep out people from out of state looking to take advantage of the protesting crowds to wreak havoc didn't completely form an airtight seal around the city. Yeah, if I want to leave the metro areas, many freeways/interstates are getting blocked in the late afternoon a few hours before curfew starts. Yeah, curfew is still in place. A lot of people have been celebrating quarantine birthdays. I've had the distinction of celebrating a curfew birthday. I can't say I'm a fan of those things, really. I really can't.

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Dear Dad,

The weekend has wrapped up, and I'm back at work. The virtual chat has been flooded with people outside the Twin Cities asking how we're doing. One of my suburban cohorts said she was tired. Now I know that several suburbs did get hit with vandalism, and there were protests near Chauvin's house. However, I'm already over suburbanites saying they're tired after this weekend. Those assholes don't know from tired! I literally got an hour and a half of sleep the night before my birthday because I kept seeing guys getting in and out of cars past curfew. They appeared to be coming from my condo building, to boot! I also watched one of my neighbors pull in a cigarette pole so any troublemakers couldn't grab it and throw it in the condo windows/doors to break and enter. Even once all that activity stopped, me getting to sleep was a near impossibility. So yeah. With an experience like that, I don't want to hear suburbanites bitch about being tired. And unfortunately, things are only going to get worse. The national op-eds are already churning out clickbait garbage misrepresenting what happened here in Minneapolis. Some asshole stated, "It was worse than Detroit." Another national columnist said Minneapolis deserved to have all this destruction in light of its past history when it comes to racism. What???!!! No! No one deserves any of this! No one in North Minneapolis deserved to have their businesses burned to the ground. No one on Lake Street deserved to have two out of three grocery stores plundered, essentially turning the area into a food desert overnight. And the protesters certainly don't deserve to have their participation slandered like this! Hell, some of them stepped away from the main protests to run off would-be arsonists. It should also be stated that of the people that have been arrested (whether for violating curfew or something worse), very few were from within Minneapolis proper. Many of those arrested came from out of town and even out of state. Why are national columnists and reporters ignoring that? These protesters actually have my sympathy for once. They know this destruction is counterproductive and detrimental to the neighborhoods' most vulnerable residents. They were right, and these national talking heads should go to hell for not bothering to dig a little deeper to understand this. The talking heads deserve a few bricks to the face.

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Dear Dad,

I saw you mention on Facebook that you were having a bad day thinking about Mom not being alive anymore. I wish I could offer well wishes and comfort. I can't, though. I'm still trying to deal with the fact that Minneapolis is hurting so much right now. We're in the international spotlight for heinous reasons, and so many essential businesses have been destroyed. It hurts, Dad. It hurts. There's been an influx of people into the area despite a damn pandemic to report on this or go to George Floyd Square to pay their respects. The governor was there recently, even apologizing to a journalist that mistakenly got arrested by the State Patrol during the protests. Yeah, the State Patrol is on my shit list for that one. Anyhow, it feels like it's nonstop. Leftists are coming down on us for past/present racism. People on the right are saying that Minneapolis is a crime ridden hell hole. It's a major squeeze for those of us caught in the middle just trying to stay even halfway sane as we pick up the pieces. Hell, I still haven't completely wrapped my hands around all this. We'll be going to the Square tomorrow to see if that will help me feel better. We'll also take a look at Lake Street. I know some people (like my father-in-law) are too scared and traumatized to go. Me? I feel compelled to see this for myself. One of my favorite restaurants in town was completely obliterated, and in some ways I want to go pay my respects to what was once there. I feel like maybe this can help me heal, knowing what exactly things are like. We shall see.

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Dear Dad,

A bit of the spotlight is off of us, but there is still plenty of local apprehension about what to do next. We've kept our getaway bags packed even after curfews were lifted and things started to kind of open up again. We're actually going to use those bags are the basis for our packing for a trip out of state. With case numbers subsiding for the moment, we felt like we could safely take a trip out west for a couple weeks. Honestly, with everything happening in Minneapolis right now, I need a break. At the same time, I wonder how I'll deal with the curious question people like to ask travelers. "Where are you from?" Last year that question was pretty easy to handle. This year? I dread saying I'm from Minneapolis because I don't want to get into a whole long discussion about the current state of the city while I'm on vacation. I just want to at least try to relax and get my mind off things for a bit. Is it asking for too much to not have to talk about your city being under a microscope? Just...I'm exhausted merely thinking about it. Hopefully when we're outdoors in Colorado and Utah we won't even see too many people. That would certainly ease this prospect. In any case, we'll see how a vacation goes. I'll just have to get used to not sleeping with a fire extinguisher next to the bed. Hopefully no one will be trying to set fire to Denver or Salt Lake City while we're in town. Hopefully.
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