Store closings: Complex reaction to protesting versus looting
Protesters force retail America to speak up on social justice issues
“We’re providing community support and prioritizing the rebuilding of our Lake Street store, which is near where George Floyd was killed,” Target reps stated in an official press release. “We have teams working to provide basic first aid supplies, water and essentials through partnerships with local nonprofits. We appreciate members of the community and our team who have assisted in cleaning in and around that location. We are now boarding the store up until we can survey the location and begin recovery efforts.”
The Minneapolis, Minnesota store was destroyed due to looting. In addition to the murder of George Floyd by former Officer Derek Chauvin (and with assistance from three other officers who are now in jail named Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao), local protesters already had an additional gripe with this particular St. Paul location. According to AdWeek, the Midway Target store on University Avenue was targeted due to a “hiring discrimination lawsuit and a history of funding and supporting local police.”
Additionally, in Minneapolis, a Wendy’s, AutoZone and Dollar General were lit on fire. Cub Foods, Dollar Tree and CVS were drowning in looters and destroyed.
Although there have been far more peaceful protests than looting in all 50 states, there is no denying that the looting has hit essential businesses in a major way.
Nationwide non-essential businesses that had been shut down for months, with out-of-work employees, were forced to close their doors again and sometimes board up. Other U.S. store chains, and small businesses, that had not been initially targeted, such as Food 4 Less in Evanston, Illinois, lined its entrance with carts and closed earlier this week. (They have since re-opened.) While businesses are hurting, people are hurting more. And the protests are proving this.
Playing devil’s advocate regarding retail riots
There are three sets of opinions regarding the protests fighting for equality and against police brutality. One group believes that looters are tearing up their own communities, including black businesses, and are too violent to be reasonable with. (This group has been dragged all over social media, including reality TV star Shekinah and ’90s-hit rapper Trina.)
The second group believes that there are far more peaceful protests and a few “bad apples” in the bunch — interestingly the way bad police officers are identified— and they should have the First Amendment right to speak up. Although they are not getting nearly as much news coverage, you won’t see much out of them besides chanting rhymes, holding signs, with hands up or kneeling, signing petitions and standing with like-minded people in a crowd. Then here come overly aggressive authority figures, with Trump’s permission, to use horses, projectiles and gas to force them out at a moment’s notice.
I will never loot — but I understand
Then there’s a third group, one whose opinions are a bit more complex. They identify with both sides, and they are me.
No civil rights charges (on a federal level) were given to Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, who killed Alton Sterling. Although Salamoni was terminated for employment as an officer, if it wasn’t for him withdrawing his appeal to the local civil service board — in exchange for a formal resignation — the local civil service board could’ve given him his job back. Protesters were peaceful.
Even in the Freddie Gray trial involving six officers — Officers Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller, Edward M. Nero, William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Sgt. Alicia D. White — none faced civil rights charges nor murder and manslaughter charges. Three were acquitted at trial, and another had a mistrial that resulted in all remaining charges being dropped. Protesters were peaceful.
Approximately one in 1,000 black men and boys in America can expect to die at the hands of police, according to an analysis of deaths involving law enforcement officers (via LA Times). Additionally, Latino men and boys; black women and girls; and Native American men, women and children are also killed by police at higher rates than their white peers. While police officers are supposed to “protect and serve” all American citizens, it’s impossible to ignore the odds that are stacked against a select few — me included. (There’s a scene in the 1995 film “Higher Learning” that is exactly what it was like for black students at my high school.)
While I would never ever loot a store, especially not after a worldwide health outbreak that has left more than 101K Americans infected and a laundry list of store chains closing, I understand the frustration. However, employees who can no longer work have the opportunity to file for unemployment. Small and big businesses have the Paycheck Protection Program, along with insurance companies to repair damages.
But there’s no place for George Floyd’s family to stand in line to get a family member back to the living. There’s no way to rebuild Breonna Taylor online. And quiet as it’s kept, the police showed up quicker to guard stores than to arrest the killers of Ahmaud Arbery.
Even out of the four officers — Sean Carroll, Edward McMellon, Kenneth Boss, and Richard Murphy — who shot Amadou Diallo 41 times, one of the officers (Boss) still stayed on the force until 2019.
While this is only a handful of names, the frustration has been boiling over since the last major riot of Rodney King, by the hands of various verdicts regarding Laurence Powell and Sergeant Stacey Koon (found guilty and sentenced to 30 months), and Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno (acquitted of all charges). Wind went on to be a “police department community relations officer” for six more years and then went to law school, of all places. Briseno was fired from LAPD, as was Wind, and moved to Illinois. Even after King physically survived, his mental health had long passed away. A victim of police brutality, King ended up drowning in his swimming pool.
I sympathize with the workers in essential stores and non-essential stores (not Gucci though, Shekinah, never ever Gucci). It is especially difficult to have this situation happen now that stores are re-opening following almost three months of social isolation. But peaceful protesting just does not get the kind of news coverage that being louder, frustrated and ready to defend oneself does. It’s difficult for me to believe that Chauvin’s charge would have been moved from third-degree to second-degree murder without the booming response from the world — peaceful and not-so-peaceful. Quiet complaints just weren’t getting the response needed, so people started reacting with the same kind of anger as those who are too often killing them for circumstances that they cannot control.
Losing money in retail is rough. But you know what’s rougher? Having two men hold a man down while the third one kneels on his neck for nine minutes — until the kneeling officer is sure the man underneath him is dead. Who’s protecting? Who’s surviving?
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