Inside the Bronx communities devastated by riots as store owners who have lost everything brand looters ‘terrorists’ – The Sun
AS IMAGES of looters ransacking high-end Manhattan stores were beamed around the world on Monday, several miles north in the Bronx a more local tragedy was playing out.
Residents of Fordham and Burnside – primarily black and Hispanic communities – woke up on Tuesday to the devastation of the previous night’s rioting, with broken storefronts, shattered glass and stolen goods.
For Foster Akuoko, 52, the owner of Planet Pharmacy, it was a tragic blow for local businesses that had no connection to the George Floyd protests that had been intensifying for more than a week.
“This is not demonstration, this has nothing to do with demonstration or protest,” he told The Sun.
“This goes beyond protest. If you are protesting, you’re not destroying your neighborhood. If you have to protest then protest, but you don’t have to destroy everything.”
Akuoko’s wife, Beatrice, 51, was devastated to see her shop destroyed.
“We’ve been here for six years helping the people of this community,” she said.
“This community has a lot of older generations and they depend on us to deliver their medication to them, now we can’t help them. I’m shocked at what these people did to us and to the community.”
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month during his arrest by four cops who have since been charged with his murder sparked Black Lives Matter protests across the country as tens of thousands of people demonstrated against police brutality.
But in some cities, the protests have given way to rioting and looting – much of which has hit businesses owned by men and women of color.
On Monday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a curfew for all NYC residents starting at 11pm until 5am, but this did little to stop the mayhem.
Miguel, 34, who declined to give his last name, ran to his Lovely Beauty Supply & Salon on Grand Concourse around midnight only to find the store had been trashed.
“It’s frustrating, we just went through a full lockdown,” he said referring to the coronavirus.
“[I] lasted about a month closed and we were finally starting to get the ball rolling again even though it was little by little, letting people in one at a time only.
“We lost money due to the lockdown … and now this happens, it’s like an even bigger step back. Now we have to start over,” he said.
Miguel condemned the looters as opportunists and said, "these aren’t people that are protesting, these are just people taking advantage of the situation."
"It’s sad, it’s really sad.”
Yet some business owners remained optimistic and refused to let the looting get them down.
Samuel Obeng, 54, owner of Good Life Pharmacy, watched on Tuesday afternoon as his storefront was boarded up after being burglarized.
“Everything was stolen, they broke my computers, cash registers, they took prescription medicine, so we have to rebuild everything from scratch," he said.
"But hey listen, we will recover, there’s hope, we’re going to build this up and it will be back soon."
After Monday night’s rioting, President Donald Trump claimed New York “was lost to looters, thugs, and all other forms of Lowlife Scum” and urged city officials to call in the National Guard.
“The lowlifes and losers are ripping you apart. Act Fast!” he tweeted.
Oscar Lezajuerre, 59, was outraged at the sight of his looted jewelry store and agreed with Trump: “Where’s the military? Where the f**k is the military? Cops aren’t doing s**t here, they [looters] are laughing at them [cops] and they're laughing at me too.”
A distraught Lezajuerre explained how he tried to block thieves from entering his store by parking his vehicle at the entrance.
“Even though I tried to put my car here, they destroyed my car so I just ran away,” he said.
“This is my life, I love my life but there was nothing I could do about it. This is a jungle now, this is bad, it’s a jungle, it’s really bad. This is vandalism, this is terrorism.”
In the Burnside section of the Bronx, sanitation workers were on the scene on Tuesday cleaning up the mess left behind by the looters.
Workers from Hoffman’s Glass & Storefronts were also busy boarding up raided businesses.
Jessica Betancourt, 38, owner of Bronx Optical Center, said she cried from her New Jersey home as she watched looters through her surveillance system try to enter the store.
“We were anxious so we actually came to the store at two in the morning and we stood outside and it was heartbreaking because they still had not come inside the store, but they were attempting,” she said.
“I just wanted to get out of my car and tell them ‘get off my store, get off my property,’ but I couldn’t because we were in danger," she added.
"They could’ve committed a crime on us.”
An emotional Betancourt recalls thinking at the moment looters were trying to break into her property that she was no longer welcomed in the neighborhood.
“This is ours, this is our community, but we felt like an outsider,” she said.
“They took over us at that moment. This is war, this is a disaster.”
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