City, News

A look at how Boston businesses prepared for potential post-election unrest

On the eve of Election Day, residents saw storefronts boarded up across Boston as businesses prepared for property damage and looting in the aftermath of Tuesday night — which ultimately rolled peacefully into morning.

Businesses on Newbury Street board up in preparation for post-election protests. MEGHAN SCOTT | DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The precautions came after civil rights protests this year, in Boston and nationwide, had turned destructive at times.

Betsy Jenney, owner of Newbury Street boutique Betsy Jenney, said she had prepared to remove all items from the mannequins on display, pull a metal grid across her window and use a padlock to protect her store.

The boutique had planned to remain open Tuesday, but Jenney said she would stay alert and cautious.

“If something should be going on in the street and we don’t like what we see,” Jenney said, “we can lock the door and pull that grid across.”

ROYCE’ Chocolate Boston, also located on Newbury Street, had not decided whether it would close for Election Day as of Monday afternoon, according to sales associate Jay Rieza.

The chocolatier’s landlord was considering boarding up the shop’s windows, Rieza said. The store had done so during this summer’s protests in response to police brutality, and the building was not damaged.

Among those who opted not to make special preparations was Bob Bacco, owner of Bacco’s Wine and Cheese.

“I have faith in my fellow Americans that we’re going to make the right choice and we’re not going to overreact,” Bacco said.

His store was looted during protests earlier this year, which Bacco said resulted in more than $150,000 in damages and product loss.

Boston Properties, which owns the Prudential Center, had increased security measures at the high-rise mall to prepare for what may come during demonstrations, according to an email that circulated on Reddit.

The Prudential Center had placed boarding and barriers on its property to prevent looting, but the Boylston Street and Huntington Avenue entrances remained open.

The company was prepared to remain in contact with the Boston Police Department and Boston Regional Intelligence Center to stay informed about activity in the neighborhood, the email stated.

South End Business Alliance President Elizabeth Beutel said SEBA had contacted its members, reminding them to stay informed and to take preventative measures if necessary.

Beutel had encouraged businesses to address building weaknesses, including inadequate lighting, poorly positioned security cameras and window displays in public view. 

SEBA recognizes the difference between a protester and a looter, Beutel said. 

“We like everything to be respectful,” Beutel said. “These are small businesses. These are your local neighbors.”

Small businesses would also need community members to be vigilant, she said. 

“If they feel that there were trespassers, they should get in touch with the police department, dial 911,” Beutel said. “They shouldn’t take anything in their own hands.”

Back Bay Association President Meg Mainzer-Cohen said the BBA had instructed its members to perform their own security assessments. She said businesses should have removed outdoor tables, chairs and other similar furnishings.

The BBA had kept in contact with the City of Boston regarding possible disturbances on election night and found no reason to expect violence, she said.

Some BBA members had chosen to board up their businesses and have been especially cautious since the looting that occurred this summer, Mainzer-Cohen added.

“There’s almost like a hyper-vigilance going on as anything is happening,” Mainzer-Cohen said, “whether it’s an anti-vax march, whether it’s just different demonstrations.”

Mayor Marty Walsh at a press conference Monday urged those who wished to take action after the election to protest peacefully.

“Please respect the right of others to have an opinion and respect your city and your community as we move forward over these next few days,” Walsh said. “If you feel the need to speak out directly, do it safely and do it constructively.”

Though Walsh said the City was “cautiously optimistic” the election would pass without damage to businesses, he asked residents to call 311 if they saw anything suspicious. 

The results of the election would likely trigger strong emotions from all sides, Walsh said.

“There’s a great deal of tension around the election, more than I’ve ever seen or ever felt in my lifetime,” Walsh said. “It’s OK to have emotions. There’s a lot at stake, but we must take care of ourselves, our families, our communities and we must respond peacefully.”

Comments are closed.