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Retailers deal with looting in aftermath of George Floyd protests

Published June 1, 2020

LOS ANGELES (BRAIN) — Some bicycle shops nationwide suffered theft and damage over the weekend in the wake of the George Floyd protests that flared into riots in some cities.

One retailer, Jay Wolff, who owns five shops in the greater L.A. area, lost about 40% of his overall inventory over the weekend from the I. Martin Bicycles location on Beverly Boulevard.

"Most of the stores were hit around I. Martin," Wolff said. "There wasn't a store that really wasn't touched. And the graffiti ... It's horrible. It looks like a war zone."

I. Martin suffered "north" of $130,000 in inventory loss, including several e-mountain bikes ranging in price from $10,000-$12,000. "Obviously, inventory was a little low because we've been partially open because of COVID and staffing," he said. "They were taking anything they could get their hands on."

Wolff said there were thousands of protesters along a mile stretch of Beverly Boulevard. The store has roll-down gates but some don't go all the way down and were vulnerable to entry. He said one of the front doors was broken before he and others boarded it and left for his Helen's Cycles Santa Monica, California, location.

"We were watching the protesters go by, and then an hour or two after dark — I guess they went in right after dusk — because I'm getting multiple alarms (notifications), so we left Santa Monica to go protect it. We jumped out of the car and people were taking stuff out. And we stopped the bleeding. And then the cops arrived. It was crazy."

That experience taught Wolff an important lesson.

"Don't wait. Be prepared to protect your store and protect your people."

On Sunday night, he and others in the neighborhood, including armed guards, converged on the Santa Monica location.

"They (looters) were circling us," Wolff said. "We were only blocks away from (the main unrest in Santa Monica). The looters were literally not even 200 yards away. We had a lot of support from our neighborhood, our community. We were on the roof and at the front door and at the back. If we didn't have the show of protection last night at Santa Monica, we would've had some damage and looting big time."

Wolff said he's had break-ins before at the Helen's Cycles' Marina del Rey, California, location, but this weekend's experience was like none other.

"This is probably the most upsetting and challenging thing," he said. "We're on Beverly Boulevard, and all along Beverly to Fairfax (Avenue) were thousands of people. A mile stretch of Beverly and there were thousands and thousands, and cars on fire."

Floyd, 46, died in police custody a week ago after being arrested. While handcuffed, he was pinned on the ground by three white officers with another placing a knee on his neck. Floyd was black.

Some retailers turned to social media to describe what happened to their stores and even show solidarity to the cause. In a Facebook post, Bicycle Therapy in Philadelphia, which was closed Monday, reported looting at its store on Saturday night.

"Last night our glass was broken, the gates were breached and several items were stolen. An unfortunate side effect of an otherwise important social movement. We have our lives and good insurance and therefore are more fortunate than most. We understand that more violent crimes are being done in this country than our break-in and that we are past due for change. However destroying small family-owned businesses isn't the solution. Let's stand together in protest not tear each other apart. #justiceforgeorge #blacklivesmatter @ Bicycle Therapy

Paradise Garage, located in Columbus, Ohio, wrote on Facebook two individuals broken windows at its store but overall supported the protest. It was closed Monday "to adjust and reorganize."

"2 Individuals (not a mob of angry protesters) broke our windows and we're mad," read the post. "We're mad that stories get written and told about the suffering of a business or building instead of the daily injustice and racism that exists in our community. We're mad that we were forced to create a business policy 2 years ago regarding theft: never call police when something is stolen because the last time we called they bragged about cracking skulls and the places where they can do it w no cameras. We're so deeply moved by all of you out there who are speaking up. What has happened over the past few days in our city is a necessary movement that must continue. What we want is for the voices, the pain and the truth to be heard. We want our leaders to demand real accountability and justice for black lives in our community. #blacklivesmatter

Many suppliers and retailers across the industry expressed support for the protest and the Black Lives Matter movement. A Twitter thread started by Tara Seplavy includes social media statements from many brands and other industry members.

SRAM was among the bike brands showing support for Black Lives Matter online.

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