CHICAGO (CBS) — All day, business owners, neighbors, shoppers, and tourists have been waiting anxiously to see what’s going to happen along Michigan Avenue, as competing groups plan protests on the Magnificent Mile.
Amid the protests on the docket: one to demand racial justice by shutting down the Magnificent Mile, the other to counter it by asking people to “back the blue” with a shopping spree in the iconic commercial district.
Businesses large and small feeling caught in the crossfire spoke to CBS 2’s Marissa Parra. They said, even if everything stays peaceful tonight, even if there’s no looting, what about tomorrow? Or the next day?
The anxiety on the Mag Mile follows local business owners like a shadow.
“It’s a beautiful sunny day. We’re going to go on a boat ride, and just enjoy our city. It’s nice when there’s not a lot of chaos going on,” shopper Tanesha Harrison said.
The scars of that chaos this summer are all over Chicago ahead of another day of protests, including the dueling demonstrations slated for Michigan Avenue.
While police are making their presence known, many small businesses are trying to hide.
“We have boarded up the entire store. We have begun to move all the merchandise,” said Scott Shapiro, owner of designer menswear store Syd Jerome. “We’ve locked it up, secured it, taken it off the floor.”
Two Chicago protests, one Mag Mile
4pm: “Back the Blue Shopping Spree on the Mag Mile”
… organized in response to …
— Marissa Parra (@MarParNews) August 29, 2020
Shapiro said business in the Loop has been hit by looting twice this summer. At this point, he’s afraid to ask not if, but when it’ll happen again.
“We have the same anxiety every day,” he said. “I have this constant anxiety of some impending doom.”
The boards outside his place are now here to stay.
“It’s a scary picture outside, a lot of businesses are boarding up,” said Roanoke Restaurant general manager Brad Alaoui, noting the boarded windows that surround his business.
Already hit hard by COVID, the local eatery was looted in May, and then their insurance rate was hiked, and repeated restrictions on access to downtown have since wreaked havoc for patrons and staff.
“From our cooks to our assistant servers, our servers and bartenders, managers, myself included; we have sometimes where we have to take detours,” Alaoui said. “For a local five-mile drive, it will take us at least a couple hours to get there.”
Shoppers like Harrison started the day early today, ahead of the protests, but she’s staying hopeful the chaos – not the message – stays far away.
“I think those are outside instigators,” she said. “We can protest peacefully, come together as a community, and still keep our city safe so that everyone can enjoy it on nice days like this.”
Businesses in the Loop said they have felt left out of the Chicago Police Department’s focus on securing the Magnificent Mile. Several of them have hired their own armed security to guard the outside, hoping for the same presence of police officers patrolling Michigan Avenue to make themselves known to businesses in the Loop, too.