The Bangladeshi-Indian restaurant, Gandhi Mahal, in Minneapolis' 3rd Precinct was burned to the ground during riots that ravaged the city Thursday night into Friday morning. The restaurant sat in the epicenter of where America's riots began following the death of George Floyd. In fact, 18-year-old Hafsa Islam, the restaurant owner's daughter, saw Floyd being arrested while she was making a Door Dash delivery. She learned later in the day that Floyd had died.
Hafsa was originally upset with the fact that her family's business – and main source of income – was lost until she heard her father say, "Let the buildings burn. Justice needs to be served. Put those officers in jail," the New York Times reported.
It was then that Hafsa says she realized what was most important to her and her family.
“It helped me realize what we were there for,” she told BuzzFeed News. “It has gotten to a point where this is the only way that we can get justice, and we can change the system.”
"I've been supporting Black Lives Matter for a very long time, and they have been fighting and protesting peacefully for the longest time. And you know, it just came to a point where this is the only way that a change could happen ... And it wasn't until this much had to happen for them to just get that officer in custody," Hafsa told TODAY. "That tells you a lot about how our system works and how far we need to take it so black lives in America can get the justice they deserve."
Hafsa took to the restaurant's Facebook page and posted a message from her father, Ruhel Islam: the restaurant can be rebuilt but human life can never be replaced.
The owner of Gandhi Mahal, a (very delicious) local restaurant in South Minneapolis that was damaged in the fires last night: "Let my building burn, justice needs to be served." pic.twitter.com/hM1qt4tGEx— Molly Hensley-Clancy (@mollyhc) May 29, 2020
Although the restaurant is gone, Ruhel sees a positive in this.
"The last 12 years, we have built a community, a really safe community ... and our community is not gone. It's here," he told TODAY. "In 2008, that was a very tough time for people, people of of color ... all this trauma, but I built this restaurant to bring people together over a meal and have conversation and dialogue. Then we can make real change. And this community is still here. We can rebuild our buildings but we need justice for our brothers and sisters first."
In the days leading up to the restaurant's demise, the Islam family used Gandhi Mahal as a makeshift hospital to help render aid to Black Lives Matter protestors. Hafsa said that between Tuesday and Wednesday night at least 200 people came in and out of the restaurant in need of assistance. Some needed fresh air after being hit with tear gas while others were hit with rubber bullets and needed to be tended to by medics.
“We were just trying to do what we could to help our community,” Hafsa told the Times. “Sure, we had our business. Sure, we were trying to keep our kitchen open. But more than anything, we were concerned for our people.”
Ruhel said the tension between police and BLM supporters is similar to what he experienced in Bangladesh.
"We grew up in a traumatic police state, so I am familiar with this type of situation,” he recalled.
A Facebook fundraiser was established after locals heard about the restaurant being burned down:
Ruhel and Gandhi Mahal have been dear friends of Survivors Lead. We support our community and have received nothing but love and support in return from Ruhel (and amazing food)! Now it is time to support Ruhel in return for all the support he’s shown to us as nonprofits, customers, and community members. Please donate—our city isn’t the same without Gandhi Mahal. Thank you.
As of this writing $46,371 has been raised. The initial goal was $3,500.
This family believes their business should be burned down because it somehow stops racism or police brutality? How does that even make sense? Destroying your neighborhood, destroying your neighbor's business – especially a minority-owned business – helps no one. Setting fires and looting doesn't fix issues that we all agree need to be addressed.