A restaurant owner in Minneapolis whose building was damaged during protests has added his voice to the chorus of activists seeking justice after police killed a Black man in their custody by kneeling on his neck until he became unresponsive.
Gandhi Mahal, an Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant located about a block from the Minneapolis Third Police Precinct, was one of several businesses damaged by fire during protests over the killing of George Floyd, who died Monday.
Gandhi Mahal’s owner, Ruhel Islam, declared his solidarity with the protesters, his daughter Hafsa wrote in a Facebook post about the damage to the restaurant.
“Let my building burn,” Hafsa wrote, quoting her dad. “Justice needs to be served, put those officers in jail.”
“Gandhi Mahal May have felt the flames last night, but our [fiery] drive to help protect and stand with our community will never die!” Hafsa wrote in the post.
Islam told BuzzFeed that he was heartbroken by the damage, but that he understood the protesters’ anger.
“Life is more valuable than anything else,” Islam told the publication. “We can rebuild a building. But we cannot give this man back to his family.”
Demonstrations over Floyd’s death erupted nationwide after a video was released showing a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleaded with him and said he couldn’t breathe.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter on Friday. He and the three other police officers who were present during the incident have been fired from the police department.
Protesters torched the abandoned Minneapolis Third Precinct station on Thursday. Nearly every building in the shopping district around the station had been vandalized, burned or looted by Friday morning, according to The Associated Press.
Islam, a Muslim and a Bangladeshi immigrant, opened Gandhi Mahal restaurant with his brother in 2008. The restaurant has been featured on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” It is known locally for sustainable practices, which include growing its own produce in community gardens and creating an aquaponics system in its basement.
Islam is active in Minnesota’s interfaith community. He’s on the board of Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light, a faith-based climate change advocacy group. He has also spoken up against the Line 3 project, a proposed pipeline that would travel across northern Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin.
Last year, Gandhi Mahal hosted a “Unity Iftar” during Ramadan for people of diverse faiths.
Hafsa said Friday that she’s grateful for those who tried to protect the restaurant during the demonstrations on Thursday.
“Don’t worry about us, we will rebuild and we will recover,” she wrote.