Business owners in Ferguson braced themselves for possible unrest following Monday’s grand jury decision. Hours before the announcement, many local businesses, fast-food restaurants and office buildings boarded up their windows and locked their doors, according to CNN. Local stores have been taking a financial hit since protests began in August.
“The destruction of public property will not be tolerated,” Mayor Francis Slay said Monday evening.
But storeowners were not entirely reassured.
Tensions in Ferguson have been high since Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, 18, but the grand jury announcement on whether Wilson would be indicted put the city in danger of boiling over. Ferguson is now under a state of emergency and some 400 National Guard troops were reportedly called in. Earlier this week, the FBI sent 100 additional agents, according to the Associated Press.
“I hate the boards,” local insurance salesman Dan McMullen recently told CNN. “I don't like them here, but I don't want my windows smashed out either.”
Brown’s death unleashed a wave of sometimes violent protests that shocked residents, keeping them away from checkout lines and in their own homes. Electronics superstore Best Buy, four Quick Trips -- a local convenience store -- a Taco Bell, a beauty salon and several other commercial buildings shut their doors Monday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In previous protests, stores were looted and protesters even set fire to a QuickTrip in August.
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Some of the most violent protests were in August, hurting Ferguson sales. Sales tax revenue for the month of August was 24 percent lower than the year before, according to the Washington Post. Revenue increased in September but took a dive in October as the grand jury decision approached.
“If you have a choice between going to a Walmart full of protesters and police nearby or going to one where you know that it’s safe, which one would you pick?” Joseph Goodman, an associate professor of marketing at Washington University, told the Washington Post.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was determined to quell residents’ qualms Monday. He spent a good part of the day visiting local businesses and allowing press to join him. “They are on edge,” he said Monday evening.
“These are businesses that are continuing to work each and every day in a good community here and wanted to make sure that they know that the state and the region is behind them,” Nixon told the New York Times earlier. “These small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and spending a little time with them is a good thing to do.”
Brown’s father released a YouTube video ahead of the decision Monday, reminding protesters that “hurting others or destroying property it not the answer."
“We are not here to be violent,” Brown’s family said in a separate statement. “We are here in memory of our son.”