Volunteers Help to Clean Up Lincoln Streets Following Damage During Protests

May 31, 2020, 5:18 p.m. ·

Two children watch from the grass as volunteers clean up a building damaged following protests that turned violent in Lincoln Saturday night. (Photo by Dennis Kellogg, NET News)

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Volunteers started cleaning up broken glass and graffiti along Lincoln Mall in Lincoln Sunday morning, just hours after protestors left the streets following a tense several hours of conflict with police overnight.

The protests started peacefully and stayed that way until late in the night when police used tear gas and protestors tossed fireworks as tensions escalated. City officials estimate the damage to businesses and residences could be in the tens of millions of dollars.

Jerry Mitchell of Lincoln who works in one of the many buildings damaged in the protests came down Sunday morning to see the effects of what he witnessed first-hand last night.

Kendra Watson and Kyle Bailey, both of Lincoln, work to clean up graffiti on a post along Lincoln Mall Sunday morning. (Photo by Dennis Kellogg, NET News)

"All I could see is a mob of people and a line of cops in front of them, pushing them back down Lincoln Mall and tear gas all over the place. It was a war zone," Mitchell said.

Kyle Bailey lives in the neighborhood and also watched the destruction on his street overnight. He knew then he would be back this morning to clean up.

"We’re just jumping on it and doing what we can," Bailey said. "We don’t have much power of this situation so whatever we can do we’re going to."

For Bailey, that meant cleaning up debris and painting over vulgar graffiti on signs and buildings.

"People walk down these streets every day with their kids, just want to get the glass out of here, make it safe and get the ugly out of this street right now," Bailey said.

A burned chair sits outside a building that was damaged during protests in Lincoln Saturday night. (Photo by Dennis Kellogg, NET News)

Kendra Watson of Lincoln was working side by side with Bailey. She says she grabbed her broom and joined her mother and sister to help out.

"We just said this isn’t our community, we need it to look better for us and we can do better," Watson said.

A half a block away, Steve Converse was one of three volunteers scrubbing graffiti off a bus stop shelter that was heavily damaged.

"We’re using scrub brushes and chemicals to try and clean this off and it’s a challenge but we’re not going to quit until we beat it. Until we win," Converse said.

Converse said he showed up because, in his words, “it’s the right thing to do.” He added with what he’s seen across the country the last few days, he wasn’t surprised.

"I am disappointed," he said. "I’ve lived in this town for 60 years and to see this in our town, it’s not right. I understand the problem but destroying property, vandalizing, that’s creating more problems in my opinion."

Jody Pavey and her mom Dawn of Lincoln hand out free coffee to volunteers working to clean up buildings damaged by protests Saturday night. (Photo by Dennis Kellogg, NET News)

In the mix of the sounds of glass being swept up and drills being used to board up broken windows, Dawn Pavey and her daughter Jody pulled up to the curb in a van, offering a small gesture of kindness to the volunteers.

"I said, 'Let’s go see if we can do something,'" Dawn said. "She’s hurting and so we decided, you know what, I’m just going to go buy coffee and hand it out to people who are cleaning up this mess."

Dawn admitted she was angry. Volunteer Kendra Watson, standing amid the debris at her feet and damaged buildings before her, said she was experiencing another emotion.

"Sad. I was really sad," Watson said. "I’ve never seen Lincoln like this. Ever. I’ve lived here my whole life. Never seen this."