Over-the-Rhine Shops and Restaurants React to Damage Sustained During Last Night's Demonstration

"Racism is real; silence is compliance." This message appeared on the boards covering Idlewild’s Over-the-Rhine storefront windows less than 24 hours after Cincinnati’s May 29 protest, held in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others

click to enlarge The Idlewild storefront - Photo: Nick Swartsell (Twitter)
Photo: Nick Swartsell (Twitter)
The Idlewild storefront

"Racism is real; silence is compliance." This message appeared on the boards covering Idlewild’s Over-the-Rhine storefront windows less than 24 hours after Cincinnati’s May 29 protest, held in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other murdered African-Americans — the first of multiple protests planned in Cincinnati for the weekend.

“We painted a saying on our barricade,” says Tessa Clark, the 29-year-old manager of the fashion and lifestyle boutique. “As we believe black lives matter, and as a white-owned business, we can’t be silent.”

According to Clark, choosing to be vocal goes hand in hand with the business itself, which purposefully stocks sustainable and ethically made products.

“We can’t sit back and be all about ethics in fashion and not be about what’s also happening,” she says. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity in the business of fashion to take a political stance and be political and stand up for what you believe in. And we’re hopefully going to do that in a very small way here at Idlewild.”

You won’t see a picture of the painted boards on Idlewild’s Instagram account, though, unless you checked its tagged photos.

“We’re not going to be posting any pictures of our storefront — I know other people have posted it — but it’s not about that for us,” Clark explains. “It’s really important for the place that we’re located in and the neighborhood where we’re located in to stand up for what we believe is wrong and what we believe is right.”

Images of broken glass became a social media refrain on May 30, as BlaCk Coffee Lounge, Sloane Boutique and other Cincinnati businesses shared pictures of damage sustained to their storefronts via the platform. Clark confirms that Idlewild was not among the stores damaged following the protest.

“First thing this morning I was worried about the storefront, just because of the product we have invested. But it’s more about what’s actually happening,” she continues. “We also know this is so much bigger than a window or a business, it’s about people’s lives."

In a press briefing this morning, Mayor John Cranley said hundreds of people gathered yesterday to peacefully express their anger and frustration. He said there were no issues until about 11:30 p.m. when a small group of people started breaking windows and stealing items from local businesses who were already struggling to recover from the impact of the coronavirus shut-downs.  

"Let me state unequivocally that the people who engaged in criminal behavior last night were not part of the protest," Cranley said. "There is and has always been in these episodes throughout American history a conflation between people who are exercising their First Amendment right to protest and to free speech and people who take advantage and exploit that opportunity to engage in criminal behavior. They are not the same thing. They are not the same people."

Some reports suggest around 50 businesses were damaged across downtown and Over-the-Rhine.

"It is completely unfair to target someone like BlaCk Coffee or Cappel's or MiCA," Cranley said.  

Eleven people were arrested last night for charges ranging from burglary to breaking and entering to disorderly conduct and more. Cranley said there will be more arrests coming based on video evidence and he expects more arrests tonight.

He has instituted a 10 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew for downtown, Over-the-Rhine, The Banks and the West End tonight and tomorrow night to help police single out those with criminal intent. 

To local stores and restaurants, damage has been done, but the mood seems to be resilient and supportive of the protestors and the need to fight for racial justice. 

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