AUSTIN, Texas - Clean up has begun for downtown Austin business owners after protests and vandalism over the weekend.
It was an overwhelming sight for Mir Raza Monday as he returned to The Shell Mart at 7th & I-35 and managed to assess the damage Inside. He was hit by looters, not once, but twice.
“I can’t even process all of this man, this is tragic, I don’t know what’s going on but it’s going to take us a long time to recover,” said Raza.
A few blocks away at the Bee Grocery, owner Steven Pham said dealing with busted windows is nothing new; burglars have done it 4 times this year. However, this past weekend was much different and the repair will cost much more. Pham struggled to understand why protesters targeted his store.
“Man what should I do, should I cry, anything cost money, we don’t make a lot of money here but we have to fight to survive,” said Pham.
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The damage at the shop next door also had the manager perplexed. Next to a gaping hole, a sign remains, put there long before the protest happened, as a statement against discrimination. Vandals apparently missed or ignored it.
“It’s senseless, I would wager that the people who did this, were just drunk and acting fools,” said shop manager Josh Cates.
The acts of vandalism Sunday included looting at the Capitol Plaza shopping complex. Members of the homeless community living under I-35 even got caught up. Among the items set on fire was a mattress that belonged to Joseph Nichols.
Standing by the burn marks from his bed Monday, he described watching it go up in flames. “It’s a bad feeling, but when you’ve got that many people around you and they’re all looking at you ugly, it’s a hard feeling,” said Nichols.
Despite the loss, Nichols said he has no hard feelings and someone dropped off a new mattress. “Thank you so much, Austin. Only in Austin, man,” he said.
Monday brought other random acts of kindness. The shattered glass in front of a Sixth Street liquor store was swept up by Nick Sanchez and Lisa Garcia who live nearby. They had a message for the owners & employees: “We’ve got your back man, we are part of the community, we are here with you,” said Sanchez.
Graffiti was washed off by other volunteers, and several organizations brought cleanup crews downtown to pick up debris. Monday also brought security sweeps. A police dog at this store checked to see if any looters remained inside, a reminder of the tension and the scars left behind that some fear will overshadow the change many want.
“It’s important for us to keep banning together, even after the protest and all of that is gone, because if we don’t that defeats our message and our purpose for starting this to begin with,” said Garcia.
A spokesperson for the Austin Fire Department said that over the weekend there were 12 dumpsters set on fire. Graffiti vandalism also happened to the walls at the Texas State Cemetery. The fountain toppled at the Capitol is back up, but the water connections remain broken.