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Some business owners hit by looting support peaceful protests, question city’s handling

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Sunday night will be a sleepless one for many men and women who own small businesses downtown.

Plywood covers just about every square inch of glass in downtown. Behind each broken storefront, in many cases, there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damages.

Some have dealt with broken glass and destruction two days in a row.

While many say the support the peaceful protests, the looting is something different.

“Total chaos” — it’s what Ben Diallo and his wife, Kameelah Shaheed-Siallo, walked into Sunday morning at their men’s fashion store J.Benzal on Washington Street.

“We’ve been in this business for 12 years, so it’s hard to see everything you’ve invested in be torn apart,” Shaheed-Diallo said.

By Sunday evening, most things were cleaned up at the minority-owned business. But the couple estimates at least $150,000 worth of merchandise was torn apart, much of it left strewn in the alley.

The couple both support the peaceful protests during the day, which they believe are effective, but not the chaos and mayhem at night.

“We want them to have their voices heard about some really systemic problems going on,” Shaheed-Diallo said. “I wonder if there’s a difference between policing protests and policing violence and looting.”

Charles Walker was his own protector at his storefront.

“I saw it all unfold last night,” he said.

He didn’t want his business identified, nor his tactics.

“My defenses is my own secret, but it works and it was very effective,” Walker said, aided by some police intervention at times.

“I’m protecting my own businesses down here on the Circle. There’s no one else doing that. I’ve worked hard for this business, it’s my livelihood. They were trying to overwhelm my building. They were wanting to loot it. They were wanting to burn it.”

He believes police are doing the best they can, but they’re overtaxed in a citywide game of cat-and-mouse.

“These people are not protectors, they are destructors. They are destroyers. The people you see behind me during the day, they are real protesters,” Walker said.

At Windsor Jewelry, just south of Monument Circle, looters have ransacked two nights in a row, even with plywood up Saturday night.

Windsor owner Greg Bires wonders if police need more manpower.

“I’m a little surprised they’re not able to disperse the crowds the way they are,” Bires said.

He said he’s not sure if he’s upset with Mayor Joe Hogsett.

“I don’t know yet,” Bires said. “But I might be because he says he’s got it under control. But it’s nowhere near under control. It’s gotten worse the second night. I don’t know what his definition of under control is, but it’s not happening out here.”

Bires just reopened Wednesday after months of coronavirus-related closure, only for Friday damage to happen.

“I hope this comes to an end and we can get our city back together,” Bires said.

Meanwhile, at J.Benzal, Diallo said, “What we lost is just merchandise.”

He and his wife hoped a curfew and plywood would be enough on Sunday night.

“We know that we’re going to rebuild,” Shaheed-Diallo said. “We just hope there’s a lot of positivity that comes out of a lot of pain that people are feeling.”

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