Businesses nationwide say protests are more important than damage to their own property


'Our broken windows are nothing compared to 400 years of broken lives,' said the owner of a Boston beer, wine, and liquor store.

For more than a week, thousands of Americans have gathered in the streets to protest racist police violence following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Violence has erupted at some of the protests —including some instigated by police attacking protesters and members of the press, and some from people who broke windows and vandalized businesses.

Across the country, small business owners are sweeping up broken glass and speaking out about the situation.

In Minneapolis, where protests first began, Ruhel Islam's Gandhi Mahal restaurant caught on fire.

"This is Hafsa, Ruhel's daughter writing, as I am sitting next to my dad watching the news, I hear him say on the phone; 'let my building burn, Justice needs to be served, put those officers in jail,'" Hafsa wrote Friday on the restaurant's Facebook page. "Gandhi Mahal May have felt the flames last night, but our firey drive to help protect and stand with our community will never die! Peace be with everyone."

Dozens more businesses have spoken out in support of the protests in the Minneapolis region alone, and the same sentiment was shared in other cities across the country.

"If burning everything to ground brings proper attention to the disgusting injustice in our country...So be it," Hawk's Bar & Grill of Madison wrote Saturday on its Facebook page. "Our property is replaceable. Black lives aren't."

"Our broken windows are nothing compared to 400 years of broken lives," Hadley Douglas, owner of the Urban Grape, a Boston beer, wine, and liquor store, told "Please don't let what happened after the protest drown out the more important story — our country wants and needs change. Our time is now."

"If sweeping up some glass and replacing a couple windows is a piece of everybody realizing the costs of racism-fueled police violence towards minorities is no longer affordable, then so be it," Bill Penzey, owner of Wisconsin-based Penzey's Spices, wrote in an email to customers Saturday.

In New York City, Rothman's put out a statement on Facebook Monday, saying the store was looted, but the company recognizes "that this is a moment of profound anger in this country, and we support those who are working to achieve justice for black Americans," adding the hashtag #justiceforgeorgefloyd.

Also in New York, Missy O'Reilly, the owner of a karaoke bar, said broken glass and stolen alcohol is "an easy fix compared to what people of color are dealing with in this country," adding, "I don't want people to start villainizing marginalized people" because of the damage.

In the middle of the country, Tyler Enders, co-owner of Made in KC in Kansas City, told a local news station on Monday, "We wouldn't be having this conversation today, which is really a conversation about racism in America and racism in Kansas City, if people didn't break windows on Saturday."

In addition to smaller businesses, some large organizations voiced support for the protests.

Target, which is based in Minnesota and had at least one store vandalized, released a statement expressing sadness over the death of Floyd and other black Americans, adding that the company will "commit to contributing to a city and community that will turn the pain we're all experiencing into better days for everyone."

After the Washington, D.C., AFL-CIO union building caught fire on Sunday, the group released a Monday statement stating that the labor movement "is much more than a building," and adding, "We've said it for years and we will say it again: Black Lives Matter."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.