Historic downtown Dayton landmarks and businesses just reopening from the COVID-19 shutdowns were among the structures damaged during Saturday night protests.
On Main Street in the heart of downtown the Victoria Theatre and Montgomery County’s Historic Old Court House both sustained damage as protesters marched through downtown. The marches were part of nationwide protests over the treatment of African-Americans by some in law enforcement. Some in the protests Saturday clashed with police and Saturday’s events resulted in 36 arrests, smoked-filled streets, and broken windows.
Businesses from West First Street to the Oregon District saw damage to windows.
“Certainly anytime time there is unrest in the community it’s concerning” Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President Chris Kershner said Sunday.
The chamber offices suffered minor damage and some graffiti that was cleaned up fairly quickly, Kershner said.
“It is absolutely disappointing to see damage that happened to downtown Dayton and to hardworking business owners of our community,” he said.
“The business community has been through a very hard time with COVID-19 and now to have this happen as well it’s just not fair or right to them,” Kershner added. “It’s certainly important that everybody’s voices can be heard. But they need to be heard in a peaceful manner that doesn’t harm others.”
Windows were shattered at the Victoria Theatre and the old county courthouse – more than 150 years old – had graffiti sprayed on it in various places.
A nightclub, MJ’s, on North Jefferson Street was damaged and was being boarded up Saturday night after witnesses said police made a forcible entry while responding to a report of shots fired at that location. No arrests were made and there were no injuries reported.
The front window of Lily’s Bistro, on Fifth Street in the Oregon District, was damaged when someone threw a rock through it. Owner Emily Mendenhall said she was in the back of the restaurant when the rock shattered the window.
“It’s just a window,” Mendenhall said. “It doesn’t matter who threw it, they have a right to be angry now.”
Lily’s was closed on Sunday because of the incident.
“It seemed like there were more important things to do today,” Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall started a fundraising effort for donations to pay for fixing the window and by mid-afternoon Sunday had received enough to fix it and then some, she said. It will take two weeks for the new window to be installed.
In the meantime, Mendenhall said she will encourage people to write positive messages on her “new window.” She also asked an artist friend to decorate the wooden panel out front.
With the money leftover from the fundraising drive, Mendenhall and her staff bought water and hot dogs to pass out to people in the Oregon District or those demonstrating. She said that leftover money will also pay staff who were not able to work this weekend because of the protests.
Because of the donations, the damage from protests on Saturday will not set the restaurant back, she said. They plan to open on Tuesday as normal and open the dining room for the first time since they closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Change needs to happen,” Mendenhall said. “I’m hopeful that this leads to some long overdue changes.”
The front door, some first floor windows and cars in the parking lot were damaged at the Greater Dayton Premier Management building on Wayne Avenue.
The custodian of the building was outside sweeping up glass on Sunday afternoon. She declined to give her name Sunday but said “It’s sad. I thought everything was going well, people were peacefully protesting. This is just a big setback with all the coronavirus stuff going on.”
The protests were part of a nationwide outbreak of rallies over the death of a Minnesota man, George Floyd, while he was being arrested by Minneapolis police. An arresting white officer pinned Floyd to the ground by putting his knee of Floyd’s neck for several minutes, according to video of the arrest. The Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been fired and he was arrested late Friday morning and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
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