Community

As Protests Continue, Some Rogers Park Businesses Take Precautionary Measures

Zack Miller | The PhoenixDevon Market is one of several Rogers Park buildings that has been taking precautionary measures to prevent looting and vandalism.

As cities across the nation continue to protest in response to the death of George Floyd — a black man who was killed in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department — some Rogers Park businesses have begun taking measures to protect their storefronts from possible damage.

Since Floyd’s death on May 25, protests have broken out in Chicago and nationwide as demonstrators speak out against police misconduct and the killing of unarmed black Americans by police officers. But some protests have turned violent, including outbreaks of looting and vandalism.

Devon Market (1440 W. Devon Ave.), an independently owned local grocery store, began boarding up its storefront and closing at 7 p.m. instead of 10 p.m. the last few days. Over the last week of protests, Devon Market hasn’t had any physical damage from protests and its main priority is protecting both its employees and customers, said the store’s marketing manager, Alissia Trent.

Devon Market’s employees “certainly believe” in the Black Lives Matter movement, Trent said, but these precautionary measures are due to the possibility of looting and rioting.

“We’ve actually decided we’re looking at some local organizations that focus on the local African American community and we’re going to be making a donation,” she said, emphasizing the need for community members to support each other during this time.

Other businesses, such as Third Coast Comics (6443 N. Sheridan Rd.) located within Loyola’s Granada Center, don’t plan on boarding up their storefronts at this point in time. Terry Gant, the owner of Third Coast Comics, said he doesn’t see his business as being a target for vandalism.

“I’ve got to make a choice and my choice is: I’m here, I’m open, I’m here for the community and I’m here for whatever support they want to offer,” Gant, 50, said. “Hopefully it’s them wanting to read graphic novels, and I don’t think that vandals particularly are out to read Spiderman.”

Gant said after Loyola sent students back home in March and cities across the nation enforced lockdown measures, he switched to curbside pick-up and mailing out orders as opposed to having customers shop in-store.

“I get angry people,” Gant said. “I also understand these circumstances bring about opportunistic people, right? But I don’t see it being, at this point, advantageous to me to make it harder to see my product when I’m trying to actually open up and get my business up and running again.”

While three of Loyola’s Water Tower Campus buildings were damaged amid protests May 30, its Lake Shore Campus in Rogers Park hasn’t been impacted by the protests, according to Kana Henning, the associate vice president of facilities at Loyola.

Henning said only two buildings have taken precautionary measures in light of the protests: film was added on Loyola’s Flex Lab windows to prevent people from seeing the equipment inside and barriers were placed inside the Campus Safety office to prevent people from violating the space.

Jocelyn Prince, a 41-year-old lecturer in the department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University, began organizing “Honk for Justice” protests in Chicago, which are being held at different intersections in different neighborhoods across the northside of Chicago each day. On June 3, “Honk for Justice” protesters took to the streets in Rogers Park, with hundreds filling Sheridan Road.

Prince said she and her co-organizers are planning to host these protests “every single day until there is justice for George Floyd” and until there is commitment to reform the criminal justice system.

Prince said turnout has been “excellent,” with over 100 people showing up to the first protest on Tuesday, and the protests have remained peaceful.

“We’re not blocking the street, we’re not blocking the sidewalks,” Prince said. “The officers I’ve interacted with have been very kind.”

Organizers have suggested attendees hold signs with phrases such as “I Can’t Breathe,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Honk for Justice” — if someone doesn’t feel comfortable protesting in public, they can “participate just by driving by and honking.”

In a town hall meeting which was posted as a livestream on YouTube June 3, 49th Ward Alderwoman Maria Hadden talked about police misconduct, which is a core issue of the nationwide protests.

“We need to act on this now,” Hadden said. “And I’ll say, speaking for myself, I think this is going to be one of our top priorities. We have to change what we’re doing. We can’t continue this.”

Hadden also mentioned a community project called For My Block 49, which was created to keep the community clean despite possible looting and rioting stemming from the widespread protests. While about 300 people have signed up so far, Hadden said that there “hasn’t been a big need, at all, actually.”

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