US stores, businesses board up fearing poll-related violence

Rahul M
·5 min read

Security has been tightened at the White House and major commercial avenues across the United States of America, with retailers boarding up their stores to head off any damages as America braced for possible unrest and violence in a bitter and divisive presidential race.

Vital government installations are on high alert while the Secret Service has fortified the White House. A 'non-scalable' wall has been temporarily erected around the sprawling presidential complex ahead of the voting on Tuesday.

About 600 National Guard troops have also been designated to help respond to protests around the country if requested.

On election eve, contractors were seen busy boarding up major stores and businesses from New York and Boston in the north to southern Houston to Washington DC and Chicago in the east to San Francisco in the West.

Stores along the posh 5th Avenue in Manhattan as well as across the New York city boarded up and workers were seen drilling plywood onto the stores’ facade late in the night, amid fears that Election Day could bring violence, looting and clashes, similar to the chaos seen in the summer during protests over the death of George Floyd.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he has spoken with Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and there is no specific reports or specific threats of violence at this point.

“Everyone, of course, is concerned about the election results and what plays out after. But I want to emphasise, at this moment, we don't see a specific challenge. We are ready for all sorts of challenges. A lot of preparation has been happening over the last few weeks,” de Blasio said during a press conference.

Responding to a question on concerns about violence in the city on and after election day and stores boarding up, he said every store owner has to make their own decision and he respects the decision of each store owner.

“I want to talk about Election Day and the aftermath. Everyone's thinking about this deeply. Everyone's concerned,” he said adding that the city should be prepared for the fact that the election results will not necessarily be a 100 percent clear on Tuesday night or even on Wednesday.

“And, right now, we're all very troubled, seeing the President of the United States question in advance the validity of the election. We've never seen that before from a president. We've never seen a president encourage voter suppression and harassment in this kind of fashion. The American people are going to have the final say here,” he said.

De Blasio added that over 95 million Americans have voted early but “we are in an unprecedented time, there's a reason people are so worried, but I want folks to know this city is prepared. I want folks to know that for those who want to express themselves about the results, the way to do that is peacefully. That will always be honoured.” After looters ransacked luxury stores in Manhattan in June, during protests over Floyd’s death, “some businesses in New York City are particularly on edge and bracing for another potential blow.” The 2020 US Presidential Election is being touted as the “election of a lifetime” and is seeing an unprecedented level of anxiety and fear across America in the wake of a bitter election campaign.

Supporters on both sides, including the groups involved in the 'Black Lives Matter' agitation, have announced a gathering in downtown Washington DC on Tuesday night as the results start to trickle in after the counting of votes.

Washington DC, where scores of shops and businesses were damaged during the violent race protests earlier this year after George Floyd's death in police custody, saw exaggerated security activity.

'Fearing post-election violence, retailers board up windows and hire extra security,” The Washington Post reported.

“Retailers have already sustained an estimated USD 1 billion in insured losses from property damage and theft this year, according to early estimates from the Insurance Information Institute, making this year's protests the costliest civil disorder in US history,' the daily said.

In Chicago, a number of stores along its famed Magnificent Mile have downed their shutters and boarded up the windows.

Similarly, the Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles and midtown New York City have taken precaution. Rodeo Drive houses the world's top designer labels, including Armani, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana.

Walmart, earlier in the week, had removed guns and ammunition from its outlet.

The police chief of Beverly Hills, California has warned about election-motivated violence. On Monday, he told CBS News that officers were working on 12-hour shifts with no days off.

'Basically what we are doing is preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,' Chief Dominick Rivetti told the news channel.

“The country holds its breath in anticipation of what some fear could be a potential breakdown of law and order or democracy depending on what happens Tuesday,” NBC News said.

Late on Monday evening, President Donald Trump tweeted that the Supreme Court's decision on counting of votes in Pennsylvania will incite violence.

The top court has allowed ballots to be counted up to three days after Election Day in Pennsylvania.

“The Supreme Court decision on voting in Pennsylvania is a VERY dangerous one. It will allow rampant and unchecked cheating and will undermine our entire systems of laws. It will also induce violence in the streets. Something must be done!” Trump wrote. Twitter flagged the tweet.

Inputs from PTI, Agencies