Suburban businesses board up windows amid protest climate
Retailers in Henrico, Chesterfield worried about protests reaching suburbs
As rumors — some false — circulated on social media that heated racial-justice protests like those seen in Richmond might turn to the suburbs, several businesses in suburban Henrico and Chesterfield counties boarded up store windows out of apparent concern for potential looting and vandalism that didn’t materialize.
Flyers circulated via Twitter on Tuesday indicating that protesters intended to march from Short Pump Town Center in Henrico County to downtown Richmond. On Wednesday, suburban businesses in Henrico County closed and boarded up businesses. Several tenants at Short Pump Town Center, the major shopping center in Henrico County, posted signage and boarded up their storefronts.
#RVAprotests #rva #shortpump Anyone trying to go to the protest that's starting at short pump the mall has blocked off all entrances and is turning away cars. A good amount of police in the area. Be safe.
— Jessica Diane (@JessicaDiane628) June 3, 2020
All vehicle entrances into Short Pump Town Center were closed Wednesday, except for one. Mall visitors had to stop and speak with a security officer and tell the officer where they planned to go before entering the mall premises.
At Fink’s Jewelers inside Short Pump Town Center, a sign warned that “all product has been removed and vaulted,” and at Schwarzschild Jewelers, a sign read that “all merchandise has been removed from these premises.”
Other Short Pump Town Center tenants, including home goods store Crate & Barrel and tech store Apple, were boarded up, with Apple being “closed until further notice.” Clothing stores including Free People and Madewell posted signs indicating that they were just closed for the day. Mall management did not return calls for comment.
The nearby Whole Foods Market on West Broad Street was also boarded up, but a sign indicated the store remained open for business.
After some protesters arrived at Short Pump, they were notified that the gathering place for the protest march Wednesday had been moved to the Willow Lawn shopping center a few miles from downtown Richmond. Protesters then walked from Willow Lawn to downtown Richmond. Some businesses in Willow Lawn closed early for the day, including Safe Harbor Title Co., which tweeted that it was “due to potential protests in the Willow Lawn area.”
The regional GRTC transit system announced Wednesday morning that it had closed Route 19, which runs on West Broad between Willow Lawn and West Broad Marketplace, in anticipation of the “planned pedestrian protest.”
— Safe Harbor Title Co (@SafeHarborTitle) June 3, 2020
In suburban Chesterfield County, the Walmart store on Midlothian Turnpike was boarded up Tuesday and saw an increased presence by Chesterfield County police continuing into Wednesday evening. About 15 miles south in Chesterfield on Wednesday, a crowd of peaceful protesters marched from the Chesterfield County Police Department headquarters on Iron Bridge Road to the nearby Chesterfield County Courthouse. U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Glen Allen, joined the marchers.
Tonight, we marched for equal justice from the Chesterfield County Police Headquarters to the Courthouse. Neighbors joined in protest, song, and prayer affirming that #BlackLivesMatter and that the pursuit of justice is the duty of all citizens. #VA07 pic.twitter.com/VUoa69tgGu
— Rep. Abigail Spanberger (@RepSpanberger) June 4, 2020