FARGO — Parts of downtown Fargo this morning revealed battle scars including broken windows, debris-filled streets and numerous water bottles strewn throughout First Avenue North and Broadway.
However, people in the Fargo-Moorhead area showed their Midwestern work ethic and dedication to the community early in the morning.
With no official group in charge, residents, faith groups and business owners started to clean up the city streets by 6:30 a.m. despite the city of Fargo not lifting the curfew in downtown Fargo until 7:30 a.m.
People converged in their cluttered, dirty, damaged, beloved downtown to shovel and sweep debris.
Many — including Mayor Tim Mahoney of Fargo — felt emotional while they reflected.
"It kind of makes me want to cry because last night was just a little hard to take," Mahoney said.
Another cleanup volunteer felt called to help.
"I couldn't sleep. I was up at 4:45 a.m. and thought, I am just going to head down," said Lisa Roscoe.
Many like Roscoe felt shaken by what they witnessed on live television Saturday night.
"It hurt to see this happening in Fargo," said cleanup volunteer Bob Flamm as he remembered watching the violence and destruction when Fargo police fired tear gas at the protest-turned-riot. A group from the largely peaceful protest during the day turned to starting fires and breaking windows of downtown businesses during the night.
"It's so emotional," said John Stern, former owner of Strauss clothing company in downtown Fargo.. "I just cried ... even now thinking about it."
Stern said he's been personally invested in downtown Fargo for years, and needed to come help clean up.
"It is my town," Stern said. "I grew up here."
Owners of buildings where windows were damaged started to clear all broken glass in preparation for the repairs for weeks to come.
Besides the glass, rocks and debris, volunteers said the air had other reminders of last night.
"When you are working in a tighter space, it is burning in your throat," said Jennifer Chalupnik as she described the tear gas lingering in the air from last night. It was first deployed at 8 p.m. by Fargo police officers.
City officials worked alongside community members to clear the debris.
"The city of Fargo came in with front end loaders, trucks and street sweepers (to clear the debris)," Chalupnik said.
In fact, both city officials and community volunteers felt motivated to preserve the beauty of downtown Fargo.
"We are down to clean up, to help restore this place, because this is the place we love," said Erik Kiesz.
Only a short two hours after the cleanup started, volunteers completed the process. While the evidence of mayhem remains, the people of Fargo reclaimed downtown and wrapped their gloved hands and hurting hearts around it.