What is it like when a city abandons a neighborhood and the police vanish? Business owners describe a harrowing experience of calling for help and being left all alone.
Young white men wielding guns would harangue customers as well as Mr. Khan, a gay man of Middle Eastern descent who moved here from Texas so he could more comfortably be out. To get into his coffee shop, he sometimes had to seek the permission of self-appointed armed guards to cross a border they had erected.
“They barricaded us all in here,” Mr. Khan said. “And they were sitting in lawn chairs with guns.”
Now a group of local businesses owners — including a locksmith, the owner of a tattoo parlor, a mechanic, the owners of a Mexican restaurant and Mr. Khan — is suing the city. The lawsuit claims that “Seattle’s unprecedented decision to abandon and close off an entire city neighborhood, leaving it unchecked by the police, unserved by fire and emergency health services, and inaccessible to the public” resulted in enormous property damage and lost revenue.
“We asked the small businesses what they needed to cover the damage that insurance wasn’t paying, and the gap was around $200 million,” said Allison Sharkey, the executive director of the Lake Street Council
Many are nervous about speaking out lest they lend ammunition to a conservative critique of the Black Lives Matter movement. In Portland, Elizabeth Snow McDougall, the owner of Stevens-Ness legal printers, emphasized her support for the cause before describing the damage done to her business.