Businesses in urban neighborhoods throughout the U.S. were reeling Monday from the destruction caused by rioters immediately after coronavirus lockdowns left them financially strained.
The rioting, which morphed out of the legal protests over George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, has slammed businesses from the commanding heights of the Fortune 500 to the freshly painted shingles of tiny startup retailers.
Stories abound of minority owners ruined. In one of the most heartbreaking, KB Bella, a former firefighter and father of four in Minneapolis, wept on screen as he was interviewed in the wreckage of Scores, the sports bar he and his wife had poured their life savings into.
Expressions of solidarity offered no security. Business owners who taped up “African owned business,” and “we support our small diverse and minority businesses” signs had their plate glass smashed anyway, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Among the retail giants, Target stores and their familiar red circles have become embroiled in the urban violence that erupted in its corporate homeland. After the destruction of the Target outlet on Lake Street in Minneapolis — basically across the street from where a cop kneeled on George Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes — the company announced that it was closing or changing store hours for more than 200 stores.
“We are heartbroken by the death of George Floyd and the pain it is causing communities across the country,” the company’s website said.
However, not all the scenes at Target were distressing. A crowd of local residents in South Philadelphia ringed a Target outlet there to protect it from looters Sunday night and stood guard into the morning hours Monday, according to local reports.
Marvin Ellison, the black CEO of the home improvement behemoth Lowe’s, tweeted Sunday that as the father of a teenage boy, the issue of law enforcement and its interaction with primarily young urban black people is a source of genuine concern in his household.
The company, Mr. Ellison said, has “zero tolerance for racism, discrimination, hate, insensitive behavior of any kind.”
Yet Lowe’s, too, fell victim to the lawlessness, as a branch of the retail chain in West Philadelphia was looted Sunday night.
Philadelphia, like Minneapolis and many other major cities, has seen police vehicles torched and windows at many businesses shattered. The same has occurred in New York City and Los Angeles, while an exchange of gunfire between rioters and police and National Guardsmen in Nashville, Tennessee, left one man dead and the capital in a declared state of civil emergency.
In Denver, most of the destruction taken out on small businesses has occurred downtown, where the pricey rents mean minority owners are less prevalent, said Danielle Smith, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce.
“And the hard thing is a lot of the damage is being caused by people who are not trying to bring about change,” said Ms. Smith, herself the owner of a photography and a digital advertising firm.
Ms. Smith has said the Chamber’s 435 members have expressed confidence that their insurance policies will help, and noted a business loss is less tragic than Mr. Floyd‘s. Most of the calls to the Chamber have been from other Coloradans asking how they can contribute to rebuilding efforts, she said.
As in Denver, New York’s lawlessness has not been confined to the city’s outer boroughs. The violence has struck downtown Manhattan, with looters smashing their way into some of the expensive clothing and perfume boutiques in the trendy SoHo neighborhood.
Ali Mohammed, a cashier at the Paradise Deli and Grocery in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, told the New York Post over the weekend, “big problem. This street filled up, crazy. A lot of problem.”
The Post described a wartorn environment littered with shards of glass and boarded-up windows. Workers at the Paradise Deli hung up on a reporter Monday.
In some cases, small business owners sided with rioters. The family that owns the Gandhi Mahal restaurant in the Minneapolis neighborhood where Mr. Floyd was pinned to the pavement, tweeted over the weekend, “let my building burn, justice needs to be served.”
Arrests for alleged looting and arson have begun to come in waves, although many of the largely Democratic city mayors have been criticized for allowing the violence to blossom.
In Los Angeles, for example, almost 400 people were collared on Saturday night into Sunday morning, law enforcement officials said. City officials are still assessing the damage, but comparisons with the more than $1 billion in property wrecked in the 1992 riots after the Rodney King verdict are being made.
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