Walz tours devastated Minneapolis businesses

The governor joined other politicians in tour saying community rebuilding should be in the image of the way it was

Four people stand in front of the ruins of a building.
Faisal Demaag, owner of Chicago Furniture Warehouse, speaks with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Tina Smith in front of the burnt remains of his business in South Minneapolis on Friday, June 5, 2020.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Gov. Tim Walz said as Minnesota communities devastated by rioting rebuild, all efforts must be made to bring them back to life in their own image. Walz and several other DFL politicians toured some of the hardest-hit areas of Minneapolis Friday morning.

Under the bright blue sky of a beautiful early summer day, Gov. Walz and the others saw dark silhouettes of burned out buildings that just days ago bustled with shoppers. They also smelled the lingering stench of fires that raged at the height of the unrest.

“How no one got killed in this is nothing short of amazing” Walz said.

He stood on the corner of Lake and Chicago in south Minneapolis where numerous small businesses were destroyed in the mayhem.

“This was your 25-year business right here?” he asked Chicago Furniture Warehouse owner Faisal Demaag.

“Yes,” he replied.

Your support makes a difference.

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.

Demaag lost everything — three floors of showrooms. It looks like a bomb hit his crumbling building.

“When I came and looked at it, I just cried so hard, and it’s just really hard,” said Demaag.

Along with other small businesses owners, Demaag told Walz they want to rebuild.

“Hopefully with the help of the city and the community, I’m going to come back,” he said with determination.

Walz called the destruction “senseless.”

“The devastation and hearing the stories — they’re very personal,” he said. “We understand the rage at what happened to George Floyd. We understand the desire to change, but then to see the peripheral damage that was done to the very community that is hurting.”

Walz said efforts need to be made to make sure the small businesses, many of them owned by people of color, can return.

Jeff Hayden, who represents the area in the Minnesota Senate, agreed.

“When we do this. we want it to be in the image of the community that was here before,” he said. “So, certainly what I’m not interested [in] is a clear-cutting and then have a bunch of expensive apartment buildings that look the same with retail that none of us can afford to be in.”

Also in the group Minnesota U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the area must be rebuilt.

Minnesota U.S. Sen. Tina Smith said the federal government can help state and local efforts.

“What we need is to be supporting the grass-root local community efforts that know how to rebuild this community and I know that I am all-in on during that,” she said. “We’re going to go back and figure out how we can support that in Washington, D.C.”

Some business owners told Walz their insurance companies have been slow to respond to their calls. Walz noted insurers are regulated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce and said he will instruct officials there to get involved.