Business owners, tourists react to protest turned violent in downtown Wilmington

Business owners' reactions to protests

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The morning after a protest over the death of George Floyd, activity in downtown Wilmington had largely returned to normal Monday. The chaotic scene Sunday night included tear gas, vandalism, and protesters being arrested for inciting a riot. The mayor enacted a state of emergency and a curfew in an attempt to keep the situation under control.

Some tourists walking on Front Street Monday were unaware anything had happened there the night before. Others said they came out of their hotel rooms Sunday night just as deputies were launching tear gas. They said they were scared, and instructed by police to return to their hotels.

Some business owners said they boarded up their windows Sunday night as a precaution when fears escalated that the protest could turn into a full-fledged riot, as other cities across the country have seen in recent days. Others said it was stressful for this to happen just as they were reopening their stores after a two month shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other than a couple of boarded up windows at Ironclad Brewery and the business office for 127 South, there was little evidence of the protest the night before. Some protesters had spray painted “BLM” for Black Lives Matter on plywood covering the side of a business on Front Street.

On Sunday night, Wilmington Police Officers were initially handling the crowds, but the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department, in full riot gear, later joined the law enforcement effort. On Monday, Wilmington Police were patrolling the area again, but said they were working their normal shifts.

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