FARGO — Like many of us watching the news from downtown Fargo Saturday night, May 30, Kevin Hanson was on pins and needles. But the emotions might have been even more heightened for Hanson, who is the president and CEO of Gate City Bank — a bank with a downtown branch, at 500 2nd Ave. N. — right in the heart of the riot.
“I kept seeing our sign on the news,” he said. “It was pretty nerve-wracking.”
Sunday morning he got up bright and early to see what kind of damage the bank had suffered. Hanson says the most important thing was that everyone was safe and nobody got hurt, but he was curious to see how the bank fared after the night of violence.
“It was about 7:20, and there were already people all over the place cleaning and sweeping. It was very heartwarming,” Hanson said.
When he arrived, he found glass doors on the east side of the building shattered and a sign and a parking structure full of graffiti.
About a dozen volunteers scrubbed the Gate City sign and the concrete structure Sunday morning.
“We’re appreciative to everyone who came out to help,” Hanson said. “We have such a feeling of gratitude for our community coming together.”
But volunteers were unable to get the job completed Sunday because Fargo police suggested too many people were starting to gather downtown. For safety reasons, both for concerns over the spread of COVID-19 and a fear of accidents, police suggested volunteers do what they could but then head home.
That left the sign and the parking structure not quite clean, but Hanson says they immediately hired a painter to come out Monday morning and finish what the volunteers started.
“If you were to walk past the building now, you can’t even tell,” he said. “We opened for business as usual.”
Hanson says they’ve ordered new glass for the doors and placed plywood there in the meantime.
Right across the street from Gate City, the Exchange Building was among the hardest hit by graffiti. On Monday, a professional cleaner was spray blasting off the remainder of the paint. The Red River Women’s Clinic is mostly clean, as is the Hotel Donaldson. Graffiti at Royal Jewelers is still slightly visible.
Chris Schlepp of Fargo’s Business Improvement District, an organization whose goal it is to improve and enhance the overall attractiveness and appeal of downtown Fargo, says he’s putting together a “best practices document” to assist businesses with cleanup.
He’s speaking to colleagues in other cities who might have recommendations for cleaning supplies or equipment to tackle the worst of the graffiti. And, he says, the phone has been ringing all morning from those wanting to help.
“We’ve been hearing from a lot from people, businesses and organizations wanting to donate supplies or even money to buy supplies,” he said.
Schlepp says once they get the supplies, they’ll donate them to the businesses.
It’s unclear how long it will be before downtown no longer has visible scars from Saturday’s riot, but it won’t be for lack of effort from citizens.
“The amount of community support we’ve seen is humbling,” says Schlepp. “It shows what a great community Fargo is.”