Delmar Loop businesses take damage in stride
Restaurants and shops along the Delmar Loop in University City were bustling Sunday, hours after protesters took to the streets in the arts and entertainment district.
On Saturday night, Delmar Boulevard was packed with people expressing outrage over a judge’s decision to find former St. Louis police officer Jason Stockley not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 death of Anthony Lamar Smith. The protests were peaceful, but after the official demonstration was over, there were some confrontations between protesters and police. Twenty-three businesses were damaged, with dozens of windows broken, according to the University City Police Department.
There were no serious injuries, but officers made 10 arrests and five people face various charges from looting to assault on a law enforcement officer, officials with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, St. Louis County police and University City police said.
On Sunday, shoppers and families dining at restaurants mingled with volunteers who painted plywood covering broken storefront windows.
Artist Cornell McKay said he was taking a break from a nearby art project to help. McKay, who is black, said he wanted to give people a different impression of young African-American men.
“Me and my cousin, we’re not protesters. We didn’t come out here to protest with the police or with the rioters. We just stood in the gap,” McKay said. “And we’re out here to help those business owners have a different perspective on the people who probably bust their windows.”
Chris Rubin de la Borbolla’s business, Oso Style Lab, had a double-paned window broken in front of a clothing display. But he took the damage in stride, saying he has insurance.
“There was a lot of really small glass all over the place,” he said. “Luckily, things were not destroyed. Not too much was broken.”
Oso was open for business Sunday, and the boutique has had a lot of support from neighbors and customers, Rubin de la Borbolla said.
“Nobody got hurt. Nothing was stolen or looted,” Rubin de la Borbolla said. “There wasn’t things put on fire.”
Protesters said they wanted to air their concerns at the Delmar Loop — as they did Saturday at the West County Center mall in Des Peres — because they wanted to send a message to people with comfortable lives.
“We going to disrupt, the same thing we said two weeks ago. We’re going to disrupt the whole city,” activist Tory Russell said Saturday. “The message right now is, 'Stop killing us.'”
That's how they'll send a message about systemic injustice, according Blake Strode, an attorney for Arch City Defenders, a legal aid organization that helps poor people. He said people upset by the judge’s decision to find Stockley not guilty want others to know that the lives of poor people and people of color that are destroyed by the system.
“People only pay attention when they are inconvenienced,” Strode said. “There are people for whom these issues of race and justice are not on their radar. The goal of protesters is to put it on their radar — and you can’t do that without going where they are.”
The protests continued Sunday outside St. Louis police headquarters, where the crowd blocked 20th and Olive streets.
"They say we can't organize; we look pretty organized right now," one protest leader said. “We're gonna take some time and we're gonna show our anger, our frustration, by chanting together all at once. Nobody's smiling today. This is not a smiling matter ... I am an angry black woman because they keep killing us."
Back in University City, a Syrian restaurant was closed Sunday afternoon so workers could finish covering three broken windows.
Ranoush owner Aboud Alhamid said he closed early Saturday because of the protests, and is losing business while workers clean up the mess.
Alhamid said there was a lot of glass in the restaurant’s kitchens, on tables and chairs. But he was glad nobody was hurt.
“Money comes, money goes,” he said. “It’s tough. It’s like, really hurting inside. But at the same time I’m so happy from the community, everybody comes to help me clean up my restaurant. All kind of people, black, white, they were here supporting us.”
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