Sacramento businesses brace for more damage amid unrest
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A tumultuous weekend of protests in Sacramento over the killing of George Floyd have left nearly two-thirds of downtown properties damaged, a setback for California’s rejuvenated capital city that has used an influx of new development anchored by a new NBA arena to shed its “cow town” reputation.
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership tallied more than 200 broken windows, 330 pieces of graffiti and more than 50 cases of what it deemed “significant property damage” in the 66 square blocks that comprise the city’s central district. The district’s 430 retail businesses bore the brunt of the damage, but office buildings and some residential properties were also impacted. Sacramento Police have arrested 47 people connected with the protests since Friday.
The weekend protests prompted the state Senate to cancel its meetings on Monday and order lawmakers and staff not to enter the Capitol building. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration closed all state office buildings in a town dominated by government workers. Mayor Darrell Steinberg said 500 National Guard troops arrived in the city on Monday to protect “key infrastructure”
Protesters gathered Monday afternoon at two of the city’s focal points: the state Capitol building and Cesar Chavez Plaza. The City Council approved a citywide curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., ordering businesses to close after Steinberg said he expected “more trouble.” People who ignore the curfew could face arrest, up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine.
The curfew does not apply to people traveling to and from work.
“It’s not safe for people to be out protesting after dark for the time being,” Steinberg said. “That’s unfortunate.”
Most of the damage was confined to the downtown business corridor, an area that had been all but abandoned following the Great Recession but has been reborn since the 2016 opening of the Golden 1 Center, the arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
By noon Monday, most downtown businesses were boarded up and bands of industrious helpers were scrubbing graffiti cursing police officers off walls and scooping dust and glass off the ground.
Michael Ault, executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said most of the damage was for small businesses that are already struggling from the economic fallout of the coronavirus.
“Their ability to survive this long-term has got to be a question mark for them. It breaks your heart,” he said. “We had such incredible momentum downtown that this will take a while to come back from.”
Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer put his knee on his neck for several minutes. It was one of a number of deaths in recent years of black men and women involving the police.
Floyd’s death has prompted nationwide protests. Most were peaceful, demanding justice for Floyd and raising awareness about larger problems of racism. But many demonstrations in major cities led to widespread vandalism and violence.
Alex Rose, a Sacramento lawyer, attended peaceful demonstrations in the city on Sunday. On Monday, he was one of about 150 volunteers helping clean up the damage, clasping a garbage picker as he watched men push dirty water out of a Rite Aid that had been set on fire.
“There’s a very clear distinction between protesters and the looters,” he said. “Nobody who wants this movement wants Rite Aid to be flooded.”
Elsewhere, Tony’s Delicatessen had its 16-foot (4.8-meter) wide windows smashed. Inside, owner Elias Silhi played a video on his phone of people barging into the shop Sunday night, destroying his espresso machine and cracking his cash register.
Four blocks away, Sharif Jewelers’ glass display cabinets were shattered with muddy footprints everywhere. Owner Hazem Sharif said he understands if the righteous rage of protesters produces some broken windows.
But walking through his ransacked store, he said: “This is not protesting, this is theft.”
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s name.
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne contributed to this report.