Last night, as has been happening all over the country, protests against the death of George Floyd turned into rioting in my home city of Boston.
A mob of people surrounded a police car, ripped the doors off, and set it on fire. People vandalized historic churches, set trash cans on fire, tipped over large potted plants, threw bottles at journalists, smashed the windows of countless stores and restaurants, and engaged in looting and destruction all over the city.
In Downtown Crossing and the Theater District, people ransacked a Men’s Warehouse, the jewelry stores Bromfield Jewelers and Skylight Jewelers, the liquor store Wild Duck Wine and Spirits, a convenience store called Downtown Convenience, shoe stores, nail salons, a bank, a cell phone store, and a Walgreens, to give just a few examples. News coverage on NECN last night showed food from the Walgreens strewn all over the sidewalk.
Tany Gad, the owner of Lambert’s Marketplace near Boston Common, which was also vandalized and looted, described the scene: “I never saw anything like this at all in my life. Two of the glass windows were 100% broken and people went inside stealing beer, wine, and cigarettes.”
In the Back Bay, people ransacked stores such as H&M, Cartier, Ugg, Alex and Ani, Canada Goose, Allen Edmonds, Valentino, Burberry, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as the liquor store Clarendon Wine.
In the South End, people broke into and looted Giorgiana’s Market, the restaurant Frenchie, and sneaker store Laced.
In Dorchester, people destroyed clothing stores Dareales and EbLens.
The Boston Globe summed things up:
Chris Parsons, owner of the Oyster Club restaurant at 79 Park Plaza, went to bed Sunday night hopeful his restaurant had been spared from the violence wracking downtown Boston. He woke up Monday to learn looters had thrown rocks through his windows, pilfered the bar, and destroyed the place.
Kayla Levine was watching the news when she saw the liquor store near Copley Square that her family has owned since 1940 being looted. The damage in the neighborhood, she said, reminded her of the Boston Marathon bombings.
And Driss El Mokri raced downtown Sunday night to his Cafe Bonjour on Temple Street, arriving just as looters smashed the big front window. He stayed until 3:30 a.m., to make sure that was the only damage they did.
Jason Santos, owner of restaurants Abby Lane in the Theater District and Buttermilk & Bourbon in the Back Bay, said: “They stole most of our booze behind the bar, they ripped out the cash registers, and they trashed the place. They even stole my cookbooks.”
Possibly the most poignant comments came from El Mokri of Café Bonjour, who was interviewed live on last night’s news by a NECN reporter. Asked how he felt when, at home watching footage from the restaurant’s security cameras, he saw someone throw a brick through the window, he replied, “Loss of words. Sad. Heartbroken. You feel like, what did I do to deserve this? You talk about justice. This is injustice… What did I do to deserve this? What purpose does this serve? What good does this give to anyone? Nothing… You break my property for nothing and then you feel happy about it.”
Exactly. Café Bonjour did not kill George Floyd. Trash cans and plants do not oppress anyone. None of these businesses deserve any of the harm that was perpetrated against them.
The Boston Police Department tweeted at 9:59 last night: “Those now protesting in the streets of Boston have surrendered the moral high ground.”
I could not agree more. It is incomprehensible why people would choose to deliberately inflict such destruction, particularly given that these businesses have already suffered so much as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and resulting shutdown order.
Additional protests have been happening today and tonight, so let’s hope that no more businesses are added to the list of those vandalized.