Sundays can be busy days for the playgrounds, basketball courts, and soccer fields at Cityview Community School in north Minneapolis. Not yesterday.
Two playgrounds once abutted the school, located just north of Dowling Avenue and a stone's throw from I-94. Now there are charred marks on the school wall and yellow plastic warning tape. Where once stood multicolored slides and hard plastic rocking horses there is little more than leveled mud.
Somebody set the playground on fire last Thursday night. Flames devoured it in minutes.
James Brunswick knows these streets. He lives out of his car. So does his strung out friend, who after one hit too many of the crack pipe is rummaging through a garbage can while straining his neck, on guard for imaginary pursuers.
Who would burn a playground to the ground? Brunswick has his suspicions. Addicts are known to frequent the playground as a pitstop en route to a more sequestered area on the north side of the school. He surmises junkies set fire to cover their tracks, thinking somebody was coming for them.
Brunswick points to his friend to make his point: "He one hit off the crack pipe this morning and now he thinks everybody is after him. Look at him. He won't even look back at me, let alone get back in the car. Man, it's the craziest thing I ever did see. Wouldn't surprise if some crackheads acting like him torched it for no other reason except 'cause they was paranoid."
Neighbors wouldn't be shocked if Brunswick's theory proved true.
Jeannette, who asked to be identified by her first name, walks her dog past the school. Once the school day has ended or during weekends, the playgrounds can become gathering spaces for teens and adults alike. Both often look like "they got nothing good going on except to make plans 'bout bad stuff they can get into."
"Setting a playground on fire, ain't that some shit?" she says. "The way that thing went up in flames so fast, I gotta think it was some teenagers or somebody like that just being stupid. I could be wrong 'cause the crackheads around here are pretty stupid too, and I wouldn't put past them none."
Adolescent loiterers and adult addicts aren't the only patrons of playground, according to a woman who didn't want to give her name because she "doesn't want to get in the middle of anything."
She says the area is popular with children. Families frequent it after the work day. Kids play pickup games on the nearby court while the soccer field hosts rec games.
"We got some older kids around here without parents teaching what's right from wrong," she says. "My guess is it was some of them. They decided just for kicks, is my guess, to blow the thing up. Shameful. Makes no sense."
The blaze is the first at a Minneapolis public school playground in four years. Arsonists last struck the Lyndale Community School. That fire was the fifth incident at the hands of arsonists over a three-month period in 2013.
Investigators never caught those responsible.
Minneapolis Fire Department officials could not be reached for comment.
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