Early Sunday, Abbas Jahangiri got a call from ADT telling him that the glass at his restaurant near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus had been broken.
He immediately made his way downtown, discovering once he got there that protesters had vandalized his shop, where he has sold sandwiches since 2003. Cash in the store was gone. So were some drinks and food.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Coliseum Loft Deli and Market closed for two months and had just reopened last week. Now, the restaurant is boarded up.
“We were simple, but we gave people a good and healthy meal. We take care of them,” said Jahangiri, who came to the U.S. from Iran more than 50 years ago. “What is the world coming to?”
He didn’t think this would happen here — not in Richmond, the capital of Virginia, and not in the U.S.
“It’s heartbreaking,” he said.
Shattered glass, broken windows and the smell of smoke were evident all along Broad Street on Sunday morning, from Arthur Ashe Boulevard east into downtown.
Owners and employees of targeted businesses were cleaning up the glass, boarding up storefronts and washing off graffiti from the windows that remained intact after two nights of protests in the city over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A couple of businesses had signs up saying “Black Owned,” “Black Owned Business, We Are Here With You” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Rags and acetone in hand, rising VCU seniors Amani Matthews and Nadya Winkey were out Sunday morning cleaning up storefronts on West Broad Street.
The pair said they did not attend Saturday’s protests because they were scared to do so.
“I don’t understand tearing down a community in which black people live,” said Matthews, adding that she understands people’s outrage but not the destruction of businesses. “It’s not going to do anything.”
The students are making goody bags for future demonstrations, filling them with chips, cookies, granola bars and water. They’re making others that are vegan and nut-free.
Marty Key, owner of Steady Sounds Record Store on West Broad Street, had boarded up his shop around midnight Saturday after most of the windows were knocked out. One untouched window Sunday still had its painted Black Lives Matter heart intact.
“Windows can be replaced, but lives cannot,” said Key, who is sympathetic to the cause but also needs to look out for his livelihood.
Employees at Round Two, a popular thrift shop on Broad Street, were cleaning outside Sunday morning. The store had planned to reopen Saturday but had delayed due to Friday’s protests. On Sunday morning, it was found to have very little still inside.
Despite boarding up the windows prior to Saturday night, employee John Kim said people still got inside. Known for selling high-end and popular sneakers, Kim said the store was targeted for looting.
“I think it’s very cowardly ... it’s hurting the message people are trying to send,” Kim said. “Protesting and looting are not one and the same.”
Greg Milefsky crawled through one of his store window’s at Balance Bicycle Shop on West Broad Street at 3:30 a.m. Sunday to retrieve his computer server.
Around him, strangers were coming in and out of the shop, stealing merchandise and customers’ bikes right before his eyes.
Knowing there was nothing he could do, Milefsky left his shop with only the computer server in hand. Nearly 50 bikes in for service were stolen in the early hours of Sunday morning. Milefsky, who has owned the bike shop for a decade, said his next step is closing the shop for good in Richmond.
“Goodbye, Richmond. I will never ever open a business in Richmond ever again,” Milefsky said in an interview Sunday afternoon.
The CVS Pharmacy at Arthur Ashe Boulevard and Broad Street had all the front windows busted out, and shoppers had to use the back door to get in the store.
The front doors of Bank of America across from the Children’s Museum of Richmond were smashed, with graffiti on the facade, including one message that read “Stop charging us 4 being poor.”
The DTLR shoes and sportswear store on West Broad Street between Lombardy and Bowe streets was still smoldering after being set on fire early Sunday, and crews worked to clean up the rubble. The Game Stop and Starbucks next to it also had broken windows.
Instead of boarding up Charm School Social Club ahead of Saturday night’s protest, co-owner Alex Zavaleta opened the ice cream shop, handing out water and cleaning tear gas out of people’s eyes.
Zavaleta stayed open until 3:30 a.m. and at times was trapped inside with strangers as tear gas flooded under the front door or gunshots rang out in the streets. He and a friend dragged people in off the street, put towels under the door to stop tear gas and had everyone crawl on the floor in case the store was shot at.
A first-generation American who grew up in Northern Virginia, Zavaleta drew his inspiration to stay open from Ben’s Chili Bowl, a landmark restaurant in Washington, D.C., that stayed open during the 1968 race riots to help people.
“I thought, so can I do that here? I’m just going to open the doors for anyone who needs water, shelter, first aid or anything for tear gas,” Zavaleta said.
On his way to Mount Olive Baptist Church on Sunday morning, Clyde Bradley’s eye caught a small group of bystanders staring at the United Daughters of the Confederacy headquarters, which had been set afire and tagged with graffiti during the city’s second night of protests.
Bradley, a photographer specializing in documenting civil rights, pulled over and got out of his car. Having photographed the dedication of Arthur Ashe Boulevard last summer and the protests surrounding the Confederate statues up and down Monument Avenue in 2017, Bradley knew he also had to document Sunday.
Pointing to his black T-shirt, with “Enough is Enough VOTE” printed across the front in red, Bradley said that is his response to the unrest.
About 10 people, three of whom were armed, sat on the steps of the Daughters of the Confederacy to keep others off the private property. When asked why some were armed, Mary Valentino, the organization’s office manager, said, “They’re just security.” Valentino declined to comment further.
One of the men, speaking about the protesters, said, “The way some of these people are acting they must be on something.”
A man standing next to him, with an AK-47 strapped around him, answered, “Delusion. They’re on delusion.”
Bradley, who said “Good morning” to those on the steps, went about his way taking photos of the graffiti scrawled on the headquarters. He then got into his car and headed to church.
Mike Szvetitz and Justin Mattingly contributed to this report.