L.A. merchants board up storefronts as authorities prepare for possible unrest on Election Day

California

LOS ANGELES (KTLA) – Boarded-up storefronts. Private security guards. Canceled vacation days. Twelve-hour shifts.

Across California, merchants are covering their doors and windows with plywood as police agencies promise a beefed-up presence on the street amid worries about the potential for demonstrations and violent responses to the general election.

Both are preparing for the long haul, anticipating that it might be days or weeks of anxiety before a victor is declared in the presidential race.

The famed Rodeo Drive of Beverly Hills will be closed to cars and pedestrians beginning Monday night. Businesses like the Mikimoto jewelry store, Nordstrom, Tiffany, and Saks Fifth Avenue have been boarded up — some painted over so the wood isn’t so conspicuous — and the city has contracted with 80 armed security guards.

Similar scenes are playing out nationwide. In downtown Washington, the sounds of hammers and power tools echoed through the streets Monday as workers boarded up dozens of businesses. In New York City, businesses from Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square to high-end shops in Manhattan’s chic SoHo neighborhood had already covered their windows.

In cities like Los Angeles, it could be another round of unrest. Celebrations after the championship wins for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Dodgers turned chaotic downtown, and pockets of the city have been rocked by vandalism and looting following anti-police brutality demonstrations.

By and large peaceful, however, protests statewide have become a regular occurrence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed in May when a white police officer kneeled on his neck.

Some demonstrations, however, have turned violent. Activists allege that police have used excessive and unnecessary force against protesters, arresting and injuring them and violating their civil rights to assemble. Authorities, however, say some demonstrators attack officers with fireworks and glass or frozen bottles.

Though law enforcement agencies statewide say they have no credible reports of election-related threats, they are mobilizing for a huge response. Many have switched officers to 12-hour shifts and canceled all days off so that they have full ranks ready to go.

“Law enforcement agencies by their very nature are generally prepared for the unexpected – that’s our business,” said Sacramento County Sheriff’s Sgt. Rod Grassmann in a statement.

Craig Lally, president of the union that represents rank-and-file Los Angeles police officers, said he’s telling his members to anticipate weeks of unrest.

“Anything’s possible, no matter who wins,” he said. “Do what you’ve got to do to keep yourself safe, your partner safe and the citizens of LA safe.”

On Monday, workers in downtown LA drilled plywood together to cover storefronts in the hours before Election Day. Every few blocks, a handful of boarded-up businesses stood nearly unrecognizable.

“Graffiti is kind of our best-case scenario,” said Zoe Ellas, executive director of Deep Green Housing and Community Development, as she watched her crew.

Tony Zablah, owner of Z Falafel in downtown LA, said his business was broken into after the Dodgers win. Thieves stole more than $6,000 in cash in a safe hidden in the bathroom, as well as tablets and soda. His employees are afraid to work now and his online sales have plummeted.

He’s not planning to take down the plywood “for two weeks, to see what’s going on,” he said. “You never know about tomorrow.”

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