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Dallas riots leave volunteers, businesses to clean up the mess

Peaceful protests morphed into riots Friday and looting Saturday

Dallas riots leave volunteers, businesses to clean up the mess

Harry Verhover, 4, helps his mother, Alexis Verhover, pick up bits of broken glass as they volunteered to clean up after a night of riots Saturday in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Saturday morning in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood looked similar to most others: Cyclists and window-shoppers breezed along sidewalks while diners enjoyed brunch at popular cafes. A few more police cars, some plywood-boarded windows, and the occasional glint of glass fragments on the ground marked the only evidence of dramatic protests the night before. 

What began as a peaceful protest Friday night in honor of George Floyd in downtown Dallas and the historically black Deep Ellum neighborhood devolved into a riot of flash bangs, tear gas, dumpster fires, and hurled bricks. Business owners and volunteers, including some who came to the peaceful protest, cleaned up the mess Saturday.

Rioters Friday smashed the storefront of downtown’s iconic Neiman Marcus building and busted the windows of a 7-Eleven on Commerce Street. In the light of day, a vacuum street sweeper droned out front, cleaning up the last of the safety glass near the curb. A 7-Eleven cashier told me angry protesters didn’t steal anything. 

In the same row of shops, rioters also heavily damaged a clothing boutique. Guns & Roses owner Princess Pope, who is black, said on social media that she and her employees “will work vigilantly to rebuild and restore what was destroyed.”

Just beyond downtown in Deep Ellum, customers filled every chair in High & Tight Barbershop. Rioters shattered its massive, double-pane storefront window. Manager Adelina Martinez told me through a cloth mask, clippers in hand, that she couldn’t consider closing for cleanup: The store depends on every dollar coming in after coronavirus restrictions shut it down for two months. 

Instead, employees swept up glass and worked until 3 a.m. to board up the window. The business opened as scheduled at 8 a.m. Saturday. Martinez said replacing the window will cost more than $1,000: “[Protesters are] trying to cure violence with violence, it seems like, which isn’t the answer.”

Down the street, a pair of police officers—one black and one white—sat in their cruiser writing burglary and criminal mischief reports. One officer told me it was their own version of “mopping up from last night.” One report focused on clothing and shoe store Sneaker Politics, where rioters stole over $100,000 in merchandise.

Photo by Katie Gaultney

David Sullivan carries a broom Saturday morning to help businesses owners clean after violent protests in Dallas. (Photo by Katie Gaultney)

David Sullivan lives in the neighborhood and spent the morning walking around with his kitchen broom, sweeping up the last bits of glass. Sullivan, who is black, participated in the protests the night before. He said a handful of “knuckleheads” and “youngsters” ruined the event by getting violent: “It’s not the people actually standing up for the cause.” 

Both his parents are police officers, so he is conflicted. But he understands where some of the rage comes from: “They tried the peaceful way for years, with Colin Kaepernick and all that, and that got us nowhere, so people are mad about that.”

Still, he thinks rioters’ anger is misplaced: “The business owners don’t deserve all this. They’re just trying to make a living, just like all of us.” 

By nightfall Saturday, the anger and frustration again seethed into Dallas’ streets, when a violent contingent eclipsed peaceful protesters. Rioters expanded their territory, moving through downtown Dallas and Deep Ellum into the fashionable Uptown neighborhood and across major freeways, prompting closures. 

Police estimate 700 nonviolent protesters gathered at 4:30 p.m. in front of Dallas Police Department Headquarters. But as afternoon faded to evening, some participants began destroying property, damaging police cars, spray painting public monuments and buildings, and breaking windows. Video circulated on social media of a white business owner with a sword charging at rioters, who beat him unconscious with fists, rocks, and a skateboard. 

Looters came out in force Saturday night, robbing a cigar shop and a Whole Foods store, among other businesses. Just before midnight Saturday, Dallas Police reported arresting 89 people and recovering three guns and one stun gun. 

Some of Dallas’ top leaders are black, including its mayor, police chief, and district attorney. On Saturday night, Chief of Police U. Renee Hall admonished her city on Twitter: “We work together to build a stronger Dallas, a stronger Texas, a stronger United States of America, but it does not happen by tearing up property and hurting people, and it will not be tolerated in the city of Dallas.”

Dallas advocacy group Next Generation Action Network is planning another George Floyd rally and march for Monday evening.

Katie Gaultney

Katie Gaultney

Katie is a senior correspondent for WORLD Radio. She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism and Southern Methodist University. She previously worked in public relations, event planning, and speechwriting. Katie resides with her family in Dallas. Follow her on Twitter @gaultney.


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  • AlanE
    Posted: Mon, 06/01/2020 11:50 pm

    I want to give David Sullivan some space to say his piece in a difficult time. I agree with him wholeheartedly that "It’s not the people actually standing up for the cause [who were rioting].”

    I disagree some with the sentiment expressed in the next paragraph, but I want to disagree gently. 

    “They tried the peaceful way for years, with Colin Kaepernick and all that, and that got us nowhere, so people are mad about that.”

    I will grant the Colin Kaepernick's way is a peaceful way (at least in an outward sense). I don't agree with all of it, but it is peaceful. I disagree with the "that got us nowhere" part, though. And, while Kaepernick's method has been peaceful, there have certain been contemporaneous examples where the protesting has not been peaceful.

    It's easy for me to understand someone who sees the George Floyd tragedy and feels like none of the peaceful protesting (or anything else) accomplished anything. But, just because something happens again does not mean nothing was gained in the interim. To the contrary, I saw more white folks than ever before rise up and express feelings of disgust at what happened to George Floyd--although I'm not sure it was all the protesting that got us to that point, though I will allow that the protests helped raise some awareness.  

    In America, we have a right to protest. But, I'm not sure that protesting is a very efficient means of bringing about the change we hope to see. It's kind of like parents yelling at their kid who isn't doing what the parents want--it accomplishes certain things but only with downsides to accompany whatever is accomplished. I don't think the Bible offers much support for protest as a useful vehicle for building bridges between estranged peoples.

    For the record, the casting of blame we often hear from whites is probably even worse.