An organization that represents more than 200 businesses on the south side of downtown is calling for the city to pay for damage sustained by businesses during the weekend riots, saying that “a lack of leadership has encouraged looting and destruction of our city.”
The Stadium Village Business Association sent a letter to Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett on Tuesday morning outlining the property damage and asking for help to rebuild.
“We need for you to take back control of our city and implement a comprehensive plan and vision, rather than a day-to-day strategy that leaves businesses and citizens in the dark,” said the letter, signed by association president Erica Wells. “[We need] a plan that will diminish the riots and carry us through a week of peace and solidarity.”
In an accompanying email, Wells suggested the city abate all property taxes equal to the property damage that is not covered by insurance. She also called for a city plan that would prevent further vandalism and protect struggling businesses.
“The devastation and cost of recovery should be largely shouldered by the City for its ineptitude,” she said in the email.
The South Village Business Association covers a wide swath of the south side, from Washington Street to the north, Raymond Street to the south, Interstate 65 to the east, and White River to the west. Members include Shapiro’s Delicatessen, CityWay, Goldman Jewelry and the Indiana Railroad Co.
Taylor Schaffer, a spokesman for Hogsett, said city law enforcement has worked to protect lawful demonstrations as well as downtown businesses since the protests began.
“Unfortunately, despite the tireless work of state and local law enforcement, this weekend saw those peaceful protests overshadowed by the actions of individuals who embraced violence with tragic consequences,” Schaffer said in an email to IBJ. “Since then, we have taken historic steps to impose a countywide curfew that for two evenings has returned peace to our streets.”
Hogsett extended that curfew on Tuesday to another night.
She added: “These decisions aren’t made lightly, and we are in near-constant communication with event organizers, law enforcement officers and impacted communities in order to ensure we continue to make decisions that protect our community’s safety and well-being.”
A spokesman for Downtown Indy Inc., a private, not-for-profit organization that advocates for downtown organizations, said it is hearing from many downtown businesses about the vandalism, and is starting a series of downtown business owner forums to share security updates and gather information on damages.
“We are also walking the street of Downtown to check in personally with owners and managers to help shape our long-term recovery plan,” said Sherry Seiwert, the organization’s president and CEO. “We also thank City-County Council President Vop Osili in helping organize a group of volunteers to assist us yesterday with graffiti removal. Those wishing to further assist can sign up on our website at www.DowntownIndy.org where donations are also being accepted for the Downtown Indy Small Business Recovery Fund.”
Numerous businesses downtown and in surrounding areas were vandalized over the weekend. Thousands of people participated in protests downtown that later devolved into riots, with some people breaking windows and looting stores. Police fired pepper spray at some of the demonstrators.
The demonstrations took place in Indianapolis and many other cities across the U.S. in response to the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.
Hogsett ordered 8 p.m. curfews on Sunday and Monday night. But the Stadium Village Business Association said Hogsett did too little, too late. The letter says Hogsett should have had a better protection plan in place Saturday night, when much of the destruction occurred.
Several well-known establishments in the business district, including the Slippery Noodle Inn, a blues nightclub on South Meridian Street, and the Whistle Stop Inn, a neighborhood pub on Illinois Street, were severely damaged, Wells told IBJ. Those two businesses did not answer phone calls from IBJ on Tuesday seeking more information.
Many downtown businesses are boarded up. Workers, contractors, and volunteers spent hours Monday scrubbing graffiti from buildings and monuments.
“Our downtown looks like a war zone,” Wells said in a phone interview. “I don’t feel like it’s helping our city at all. For four days, there has been no clear plan announced on how to deal with these demonstrations. I do fear for the city.”
She said many businesses, including restaurants, pubs, shops, and offices were already struggling to reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic closed much of the city for more than two months.
“Now, with impending daily curfews and less than 24 hours’ notice, it makes it next to impossible for a restaurant or any other business to open its doors,” she said.
Councilor Kristin Jones, who represents District 16 on the near south side, said she understood the frustrations of business owners and others who were affected by unrest over the weekend.
“I’m committed to continuing to listen to all who want to speak,” she said in an email to IBJ. “I am meeting this afternoon with representatives from the business community to listen further to their concerns. I stand committed to working with our administration, law enforcement, and the business community as we move forward.”