At a cellphone store across the street, one window was boarded up, a remnant of the previous vandalism, while the other was intact. Kevin Pak said that when the security system went off in August, the police didn’t show up. The store suffered $15,000 in damage. “They didn’t do anything last time,” he said.
He hoped that this time would be different. The store has changed its procedures, locking up more of its merchandise at night, and he said it’s encouraging that the National Guard has already been called in.
“We’re just doing business as usual,” Pak said. “I’ve been hearing that the grand jury decision was coming for a long time. I heard that in September and in October. I’m not going to worry about it until it happens.”
Looting hasn’t been the only way that the protests have affected businesses. Protest leaders have announced a boycott effort called No Justice, No Profit, set to target area retailers during the post-Thanksgiving shopping weekend. “We are asking you to withdraw your participation the entire weekend,” organizer Dacia Polk said at a news conference announcing the plan. “There will not be business as usual in America while our people are being killed.”
Concerns reach from Ferguson to the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis, where VonDerrit Myers was killed by an off-duty officer Oct. 8, to Clayton, the county seat, where the grand jury has been meeting, and beyond. One protest group released a map of targets, which includes points all over the region, including the headquarters of Anheuser-Busch, Monsanto and Emerson Electric, a company that has been operating in Ferguson for more than 70 years. The maps cites the high salary of Emerson’s CEO as their motivation to protest at the building.
Pace Properties, which manages a strip mall not far from the Clayton courthouse, recently sent a letter to its tenants warning of possible protests and “asking every store manager to give some serious thought to what your response would be in the event of demonstrations or civil unrest.”
MoKaBe’s, a St. Louis coffee shop known for social activism, responded in a different way.
The shop is not far from the site of the Myers shooting. Last week MoKaBe’s wrote on its Facebook page that the shop would serve “as a ‘safe space’ for activists and protestors as soon as the grand jury announcement is made. “Our doors will be open 24 hours for folks to warm up, rest, grab a drink or snack, charge phones, use restrooms, etc.”
That was met with a backlash from supporters of the police and people who are fed up with the protests. On the St. Louis CopTalk message board, a commenter labeled MoKaBe’s a “business that supports cop killers.”
The shop’s owners declined to comment for this story, but employees have responded in their own way. White baristas there wear black T-shirts that read “race traitor,” and on Facebook the business posted a thank-you message to a man from Canada who, “among calls from racist trolls, called to congratulate us for our principled stand against police brutality. Made our night.”
At lunchtime on Tuesday, Ferguson Burger Bar and More was full of customers waiting on their orders. Ferguson residents Charles and Kizzie Davis bought the restaurant the day before Brown was killed. Unlike many of its neighbors, the burger bar came through the protests unscathed even though the couple did nothing extra to protect it. As one of the few businesses that stayed open throughout the protests, the restaurant became a gathering place for media, protesters and residents, and it received quite a bit of news coverage. Charles Davis describes their luck as a “blessing.”
Kizzie Davis wore a red T-shirt that read “Black lives matter.” (One business that’s booming in Ferguson has been the production of memorial gear.) She told a couple of customers about a fundraiser the restaurant is organizing. She was planning to distribute 150 holiday care baskets. “We would like to give back to the children in the surrounding areas of Ferguson,” the flier read. “They have been affected by the Mike Brown shooting in more than one way.”
Asked if he worried what might happen after the grand jury decision, Charles Davis shook his head no.
“I wasn’t worried before, so I’m not worried now,” he said. “I’m just going to leave it in God’s hands.”