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Downtown businesses board up in fear of potential post-election unrest

State posts National Guard personnel at McCormick Place “to be ready to respond if needed,” but the city currently has no plans to deploy them.

Shoppers walk past the boarded up windows at Ralph Lauren, at 750 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Shoppers walk past the boarded up windows at Ralph Lauren, at 750 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Fiancee Jewelry has already been hit by vandalism and looting twice, both during the summer.

And now, the store is preparing for a potential round three.

“We weren’t ready for the last two times we got hit,” said Maggie Massih of Fiancee, located on 31 N. Wabash Ave. “This time we’re going to make sure that we board up and protect the property.”

With Election Day on Tuesday, large and small businesses downtown who fear potential vandalism and looting after the results are in plan to board up their storefronts to protect them.

The governor said National Guard troops in Chicago “would be on standby if needed,” but the city said there is no plan to deploy them.

In the last six months, the city has seen two major instances of looting and vandalism — the first time during the George Floyd protests, and the second in August.

A customer enters Vickies Nail Salon, at 7 E. Superior St. near the Magnificent Mile, which sits partially boarded up as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
A customer enters Vickies Nail Salon, at 7 E. Superior St. near the Magnificent Mile, which sits partially boarded up as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Like Fiancee, Vickie’s Nails & Spa at 7 E. Superior Street near the Magnificent Mile was also hit both times, and its windows are now partially boarded up.

A spokesman from Vickie’s said when the nail salon was broken into and looted over the summer, they didn’t receive help from the Chicago Police Department, despite calling 911 multiple times.

“We don’t feel secure, we don’t feel safe, and we don’t feel the government can protect our business,” he said. “It’s so important that we need to protect ourselves.”

Kimberly Bares, president and CEO of nonprofit business organization Magnificent Mile Association, said they’ve been looped into the city’s plan for Election Day security for downtown businesses. This includes the pre-staging of police in the district, concrete barriers and enhanced communications with the city.

The Police Department was not available for comment Monday.

On Tuesday, Bares said she and another colleague from the Magnificent Mile Association will be stationed at a physical command center downtown, where they will receive incident information from the Office of Emergency Management & Communications and then pass it on to their member businesses. She added they could be stationed there Wednesday and Thursday as well, depending on developments.

“We sincerely hope that we’ve overplanned, that this is a peaceful Election Day and peaceful days after the election, as it may take several days or longer to finish counting ballots,” Bares said.

Meanwhile, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that National Guard troops staging at McCormick Place on Monday would be on standby if needed.

”Out of an abundance of caution, we’ve made sure that our National Guard is simply in a state of readiness,” Pritzker said.

“We want to make sure that the cities, counties that call upon us for help from the state of Illinois that we have those resources available to them ... we simply have them at a state of readiness in case they are asked to help.”

The city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications on Monday said in a tweet: “The City has not made any calls to deploy the National Guard in Chicago. Similar to past emergency preparedness plans, the State has stationed personnel at McCormick Place to be ready to respond if needed, however, there are currently no plans for them to be deployed.”

And the National Guard on Monday also tweeted: “Obviously, people can see Illinois National Guard trucks and troops moving. This is to be ready to respond if needed, but we have not been given any missions. We, along with most other Illinoisans and Americans, hope we are not needed.”

Bares said the biggest concern she’s heard from business owners has mainly been how uncertain today’s society can be.

“There’s a heightened anxiety in the country, and you’re seeing that play out in business districts,” she said.

For Fiancee Jewelry, it hasn’t boarded up its storefront just yet but has lined their windows with wooden planks. Massih said that they will begin to cover the windows and the door tomorrow and will “get cues” from the media and police in the upcoming days to see where to go from there.

She said she believes protesters and looters are completely different, and today’s climate has made it hard on the business.

“Unfortunately at this time, that we not only have COVID, but we also have to deal with the political aspect, and then also the looters,” Massih said.

Workers board up the windows at Zara, at 108 N. State St. in the Loop, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Workers board up the windows at Zara, at 108 N. State St. in the Loop, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
People walk past the boarded up windows at Staples, at 111 N. Wabash Ave. in the Loop, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
People walk past the boarded up windows at Staples, at 111 N. Wabash Ave. in the Loop, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times
Shoppers walk past the boarded up windows at The Disney Store, at 717 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Shoppers walk past the boarded up windows at The Disney Store, at 717 N. Michigan Ave. on the Magnificent Mile, as businesses prepare for potential civil unrest in response to Election Day, Monday, Nov. 2, 2020.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times