DES MOINES, Iowa — Tire shops have been left to pick up the pieces, literally, in the wake of protests and riots that have broken out around the country following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman.
Locations both close to the Minneapolis homicide and across the country have been struck by vandalism that has caused damage and disrupted operations.
Des Moines is normally a peaceful place, according to Wes Holt, president of Hilltop Tire Service, who said the family-owned shop has had to pick up the pieces following riots that damaged his downtown location on May 29.
"They broke out all the windows in the front and the side of our building, and then got inside and took some cash from the cash drawer. Started throwing bricks around inside the building. Just knocked over some tire displays. All of the chairs were thrown outside on the street," Mr. Holt said.
A protest earlier in the day in front of the nearby city police station devolved over time, and by late evening, there was trouble.
"It started out as a peaceful protest downtown, which is perfectly legitimate," Mr. Holt said.
"I think when they got asked to start breaking it up and start going home, I think the majority of the people went home. But then a few people stayed back and started getting rowdy. So the police tried to break it up. The police station is only about two blocks from our store.
"They ended up pushing the crowd down towards our building. Once they got down there, they were even more upset. That's when they started getting violent. And started breaking windows," he said.
Mr. Holt estimated his shop, which sustained "tens of thousands of dollars" in damage, was targeted around 10:30 to 11 that Friday night.
Hilltop Tire, which has two other locations in the Des Moines area, kept its downtown location closed on Saturday but was up and running again by the following Monday, June 1. The broken windows were boarded over, and the shop cleaned and readied for customers.
Des Moines, like so many other communities around the country, has been experiencing unrest like no other time. The widespread nature of the protests exceeds even that of the civil rights era when protests, while significant, were not in as many cities.
"I just I never experienced anything like this in Des Moines," Mr. Holt said.
"It's normally pretty peaceful here. I knew they were going to have a demonstration, which I expected to have some people hollering and voicing their opinion, which I have no difficulty with. And then I guess I didn't even expect it would break out into a riot and end up being all over the streets of downtown."