Man in black coat, gray beanie and mask walks through the snowy memorials outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis.

“It felt like war” — a Minneapolis chef’s reflections on the upheaval of spring 2020 and the flashbacks it brought

MINNEAPOLIS, MN —

October, 2020.

Outside the windows of Sameh’s black SUV, the slush piled along the curbsides indicated an entire season had come and gone, but the wreckage — still black from char — looked so fresh I almost expected to smell it.

As we crawled along Minneapolis’ Lake St., rubble lined the road. Not on one particular corner, or for a couple blocks, but peppering miles of the thoroughfare known once for tacos, Somalian food and mom-and-pop groceries; a stretch now known for the end of one era and the start of a next.

It was spring when George Floyd’s life was seized not too far from here; outside the local Cup Foods that has now become infamous: an eerie memorial filled with blockades, self-appointed protectorates and impassioned art painted on the brick walls of nearby buildings and strung from lamp posts.

On that day in May, the city erupted— spurred by anguish and mourning, anger at decades of policy and neglect, and finally, simply chaos and anarchy.

Everything in the path of these emotions was a matchstick, and together, the local businesses lining this intimate corridor were licked up into the bonfire; hundreds of buildings turned to scrap, to empty lots, to piles of destruction where neighborhoods once hummed.