CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) – What started as a peaceful protest in downtown Cleveland turned violent Saturday.
Demonstrators had gathered to protest against the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.
While many gathered peacefully, a group of people abandoned the rule of law.
From Cleveland city staples that attract out of towners to longtime local favorites, downtown businesses on Euclid, Avenue, East Fourth Street, and Public Square were badly damaged when vandals tore through.
Many of the businesses had only recently reopened following the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s really hard when you’re driving home and people are sending you videos of people smashing something that you’ve put a lot of your heart and effort and blood, sweat and tears into building,” Christopher Lieb, owner of Butcher and the Brewer told FOX 8 Kevin Freeman.
House of Blues, Corner Alley, Rebol, Chocolate Bar, and CVS are among the businesses that sustained damage during the violence.
Staff at Colossal Cupcakes hid in the bathroom while looters smashed the windows and took everything.
Owner Kelly Kandah said in a Facebook post she needed a couple of days before returning to the store to figure out how she was going to put things back together.
“…(and trust me it will be put back together) but I need a moment, some sleep, and then we can clean,” she wrote.
GV Art and Design spent Sunday morning cleaning up its downtown location.
They shared video on Facebook and said, “Thankfully everything can be replaced.”
Geiger’s clothing store said in a Facebook post its downtown location would be closed until further notice.
“The store’s windows were shattered and most of the merchandise was taken,” said Gordon Geiger, co-owner of the 88-year old business. “We are relieved that none of our associates was injured; all were safe at home when the incident took place.”
They say they will figure out their plans once they evaluate the damage.
“We are saddened by this event, but gratified that no one was injured,” said Chas Geiger. “We firmly believe in the rights of all Americans to free speech and peaceful assembly. It disturbs us that the genuine message of lawful, orderly protestors has been obscured by the unwarranted, violent actions of those who would use a tragedy for personal gain.”
Flannery’s Pub is among the businesses that hosted a fleet of volunteers who helped clean up.
The Cleveland Division of Police arrested 66 people in connection with the violence and vandalism.
A downtown curfew is in effect through 8 a.m. Monday.