The Grand Jury’s decision not to prosecute Ferguson police officer Darrell Wilson, for shooting to death African-American teenager Michael Brown, led to angry protests in the city which, in turn, caused some demonstrators to burn some buildings, destroying part of the city’s economy. Joe Reagan, an official of the St Louis Chamber of Commerce, said that approximately 60 businesses were vandalized, looted, or burned.
Wilson shot Brown on August 19 in Ferguson, after he asked him and a friend to move away from the road so as to not block traffic. A confrontation followed between the two, leading to the shooting. Wilson had gone to the area to investigate a robbery incident at a store where Brown is alleged to have engaged the store clerk in a scuffle as he stole cigarettes. At the time of the shooting, Darrell did not know that Brown was involved in the robbery.
Reagan said that this week’s riots destroyed 12 businesses completely. Some of the affected businesses also suffered the same fate in August immediately after the shooting. He said even though this was a sad time for families, the community, and businesses in Ferguson, they were working harder than ever before to rebuild the affected institutions.
Rodney Crim, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership president, said his organization has sent teams to Ferguson to assess the damages to businesses resulting from the riots. He said his organization was going to help the affected businesses rebuild so that they can continue to provide essential services to the community.
Immediately after the jury announced that Darrell would not be indicted, some rioters raided Ferguson Market and Liquor, the same store where Brown is alleged to have stolen some cigars, where they looted merchandise and destroyed property, thereby impacting the part of the city’s economy in the long run.
Doyle Beck saw his pizza restaurant burning on live television on Monday night. He and his manager had closed Four Little Caesars, located in the St. Louis metropolitan area, at 7:30 pm so that employees could get to their homes before the grand jury announcement. He told The Wall Street Journal that he intends to rebuild the store and continue with his pizza business. He said he aimed to return the jobs of committed members of staff who have worked for him for many years.
The protesters also vandalized a bakery belonging to Natalie DuBose on Monday night. The vandals destroyed baking equipment. DuBose said that she had been saving over the years and was able to open the bakery in June. She said that she, at times, worked two jobs in order to save enough to start the business. After the riots, she followed a friend’s advise and initiated an online fundraising effort by setting up a GoFundMe campaign. NBC News reported that well-wishers have so far raised $200,000 to help her get her business back. She said people have shown concern following her loss. They have left songs, messages, and prayers on her phone. She said she was determined to return the bakery back to business.
In an effort to help businesses destroyed by rioters in Ferguson regain their economic viability, business development groups in the city teamed up with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce in August and set up a fund that currently has $1 million. The fund has so far given almost $350,000 to small businesses. The beneficiaries will not pay interest, and have five years to repay their loans.
By Benedicto Ateku