Main commercial corridors in the city that had just begun to reopen in the face of coronavirus are closed once again, as long stretches of downtown east of Arthur Ashe Boulevard are now boarded up while they ride out the wave of protests spurred by the death of George Floyd.
The Arts District, mainly along Broad Street, appears to have been one of the hardest-hit areas, as the majority of storefronts have boarded up in some way – some because their windows were smashed and others to prevent the same fate should demonstrations turn unruly again.
Some storefronts were spared from damage, while others bore the brunt of demonstrators’ frustrations. Others, such as the Virginia Repertory Theater, noticeably kept their facades open to the light of day as usual, without any damage and no boarding up.
Some remained open for business from behind the plywood. A barber shop at the corner of East Broad and Second Street that had been smashed up over the weekend had a steady stream of customers during business hours Monday. Around the corner, Sandwich shop Salt & Forge on Second Street did the same.
As the protests headed into their third night, many businesses, even those with smashed windows, placed fliers over their boarded-up storefronts showing messages of solidarity with the protestors.
Others posted pleading messages to protestors, aimed at preventing further damage, posting fliers with “Notice! This is a Community Organization” or “This is a small local business” or “Minority-Owned.”
The Wells Fargo branch at East Grace and Second streets was one of the hardest-hit buildings in the neighborhood, with none of its windows, doors or ATM machines intact. Even its drive-thru sign was hit with the anarchist symbol.
More prevalent than broken glass in the Arts District is the graffiti that’s been sprayed on a majority of buildings.
Everything from office buildings to apartments to retail shops were tagged. The federal courthouse on East Broad Street was tagged with graffiti on its pillars, as were some GRTC bus stops, which continued to operate under limited hours ahead of the third evening of expected demonstrations.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which has had its reporters and photographers out in force throughout the uprisings, got hit with graffiti.
The trend of boarding up also spilled into Carytown as some windows were damaged during weekend vandalism and others put up plywood as a precaution.
Meanwhile, crowds continued to gather throughout the day at the monuments on Monument Avenue. The statues, which have been a point of hot debate long before the death of George Floyd and the related protests, now have their bases completely covered with colorful graffiti after three days of demonstrations.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy building on Arthur Ashe Boulevard was similarly tagged and had been set fire to, while, notably, the nearby Kehinde Wiley “Rumors of War” statue showed no signs of vandalism.