‘If This Changes Something, It’s Worth It.’ Raleigh Biz Owner Surveys the Damage After George Floyd Protests Turn Violent Saturday.

A message for healing in Raleigh the morning after protests over the death of George Floyd sparked unrest and violence. Image by Sarah Ovaska.

By Sarah Ovaska, Associated Press

May 31, 2020

Hundreds gathered in Raleigh to clean up, after demonstrators protesting George Floyd’s death clashed with police.

“I will sacrifice myself if this changes something,” said Trina Blalock, gesturing to her broken window. “If this changes something, it’s worth it.” 

Blalock is one of the owners of Blalock’s Barber Salon, a Black-owned business on Wilmington Street that’s been in operation in Raleigh since 1970.

Her business was one of many vandalized in downtown Raleigh Saturday night. The city was one of several in North Carolina and dozens of U.S cities where protestors filled the streets this weekend to register anger, frustration, and pain over the death of George Floyd, a black man killed while  in the custody of Minneapolis police. 

He was the latest of a long string of Black men and women killed in interactions with police in recent years, incidents that have shaken and horrified the nation. Graphic video footage of Floyd’s death shows former Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than eight 8 minutes, as Floyd gasped  and bystanders pleaded with Chauvin to stop. Chauvin is now charged with third-degree murder. 

The protest Saturday evening in Raleigh remained  peaceful for several hours, but the tenor changed as the crowds thinned and night fell. Raleigh police in riot gear fired off tear gas and rubber bullets to try and disperse crowds as some demonstrators smashed the windows of downtown businesses, looting the contents of some, including a CVS Pharmacy and Dollar General. 

The Associated Press reported that police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray at protesters and journalists after an initially peaceful protest that drew more than 1,000 people broke down Saturday evening.

“We had about two hours of peaceful protesting,” Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown said at a Sunday morning press conference. “Everything after that was anarchy.”

Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin called the aftermath of the protests “heartbreaking and devastating.”

“There was a group of people who came in the dark of the night who had no intention of protesting peacefully,” she said.

Blalock said several barbers guarded the shop Saturday night when the protests turned raucous. That seemed to protect the barber shop at first, and the barbers eventually left when things seemed to settle down. 

But Blalock, at home watching the shop through a security camera, saw the front window of her shop shatter shortly after the men left the shop. 

She and others rushed back to downtown Raleigh and sat in the barber shop until morning to protect it from further damage. 

“We’ve been here all night,” Blalock said. It’s a hard blow for the barber shop, which had been closed because of COVID-19 up until last week. 

Hundreds showed up in downtown Raleigh Sunday morning to clean up the broken glass and destruction that followed a chaotic and violent night of protests. 

Volunteers joined them Sunday morning to help clean up the broken glass and prop up plywood in the empty frame. Customers, some who had been coming since they were small children, stopped by to lend their support. 

Though Blalock sees her shop’s vandalism as unfortunate, she said it’ll be a minor inconvenience if what results from the protest in Raleigh and across the nation is real change in how Black Americans are treated by police and the criminal justice system. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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