Shattered glass along Wilmington’s main shopping thoroughfare sparkled in the early Sunday morning sun, as the city literally picked up the pieces from violent looting that occurred just hours earlier.
Police, cleaning crews and Mayor Mike Purzycki surveyed the blocks-long damage to businesses on Market Street caused by a mob that took over the state’s largest city last night.
As Saturday grew dark, protests sparked by the death of an African American man, George Floyd, while he was being detained by the Minneapolis Police, descended into senseless criminal destruction, leaving broken storefront windows down a multi-block stretch from Rodney Square to 4th Street.
A.R. Morris, Starbucks, La Fia, Merchant Bar, Bardea, other businesses damaged
Dozens of Market Street businesses from A.R. Morris Jewelers to Starbucks to Bardea restaurant sustained significant damage. Many stores including Al’s Sporting Goods were ransacked of merchandise.
Merchant Bar owner Bryan Sikora shared on Facebook video from a security camera that overlooks the entire bar area and entrance. In the video, after one person breaks into the bar and steals bottles of liquor, 30 to 40 other young people can be seen swarming into the restaurant, jumping over the bar to snatch every bottle off of the shelves.
Business owners and employees, along with workers from Downtown Visions and volunteers from Bethel AME Church were on the scene early, with brooms and tools in hand to clean up the mess.
Brett Morris of AR Morris Jewelers said this was the first time in sixty years of being on Market Street his store had experienced anything like the attack. His storefront was damaged — an entire window is gone as is his glass front door. But A.R. Morris has a security gate inside the windows, so no jewelry was taken.
“Going from a positive protest to damaging properties of innocent people — completely frustrating that this happens. Obviously, I would have liked to have seen them [police] be able to stop things. But at the same time, I don’t know what that leads to.”
He voiced concern over whether more violence is in store for Wilmington. “I just asked the mayor what’s going to be the plan going forward, because we can’t assume that everything is over,” he said.
Mayor Purzycki: “Mob control is an entirely different animal”
As he walked along Market Street with other city officials, Purzycki said he was “very concerned” about the looting and had been in constant contact throughout the night with Wilmington Chief of Police Robert J. Tracy about the most effective response to a dangerous situation.
“We all have our own visceral reactions about what to do and how to react to people who are misbehaving. Mob control is an entirely different animal,” said Purzycki. “I defer to my police chief … who is highly skilled in this regard … he called in the State Police and the County Police, deployed them in a way he said is the best strategy for minimizing the damage.”
Purzycki decried the setback to the last several years of progress achieved in revitalizing the city’s downtown business district and dining scene. “This wasn’t about Wilmington, or the Wilmington police department, this was a national issue we got caught up in and we’re paying a price but I hope we can bounce back,” he said.
75% of merchandise stolen or ruined at Al’s Sporting Goods
David McVey, manager of Al’s Sporting Goods, said it could be at least a month before the store – which has been a Market Street pillar since 1935 – can reopen.
“I’m devastated. The damage is just awful. I didn’t think it could get to this level. Those police officers here last night – they could have controlled better. They could have stopped it,” he said.
“We’ve already been closed for the coronavirus for weeks and weeks and weeks and we’ve just started to open. And now we have to shut everything down again.”
William Banks, a 14-year employee of Al’s Sporting Goods, said government didn’t do enough to protect businesses or property.
“What are you training for if you’re going to just sit there and let people loot and pillage and destroy people’s livelihoods,” said Banks.
“If they had moved that out to Hockessin, trust me they would have shut that down … they would have had the National Guard on standby, they would have shut that down,” said Banks, saying Governor John Carney should have mobilized state resources to prevent the looting.
Stores burglarized on 202
Reports of attacks on suburban businesses on Saturday night have been shared across social media, including damage to a gun store on Concord Pike/202.
Target has announced that it plans to close at 6 pm tonight.
Sen. Tizzy Lockman responds to the chaos overnight
State Sen. Elizabeth, “Tizzy” Lockman also came out this morning to survey the damage in her district. She was touch in touch with a variety of groups last night who offered to come out to help with clean up today on Market and Shipley Streets.
Lockman told us that she thinks the local police showed “incredible restraint,” saying the night could have turned a lot worse. “We can all fix windows,” she added.
“I came out at this time yesterday as part of the protest. I totally understood the outcry. And I was nervous about seeing a turn like we were seeing in a lot of cities around the country. And I was really, I was really, I was upset. I was shocked when I saw that happened here — especially seeing our small businesses downtown being damaged.
“It’s an extremely difficult balance, and I knew that coming into my role. And it was something actually that appealed to me about this role. In the city of Wilmington, we have a lot of hurt people and pain and struggle in our communities. And that is something that I’ve always been very
committed to addressing, and we have to balance that with our desire to grow and develop and in terms of economic opportunity,” she said.
Protests to continue tonight, and shopkeepers are preparing
Another protest is planned for tonight. Groups are planning to meet at 800 French Street at 6 pm. Store owners told us they will not let a second night go by counting on police to defend their businesses from looting. Most were busy today either boarding up their windows or gathering up several male friends and co-workers to defend their storefronts.
One store owner on Market Street said that protesters plan to “fan out” to other shopping districts, including the 202 corridor and Christiana Mall.