For Dr. Ali Barbarawi, his dental practice on the corner of Chicago and Lake streets in Minneapolis was more than just a means to feed his family – it was a way to help the city’s poorest, the disabled, the uninsured and those struggling the most to make it through.
But his Chicago Lake Dental, close to the spot where George Floyd died while in police custody last week, is now nothing more than a burned-out shell. Less than two days before Barbarawi’s small business was slated to reopen after more than two months in lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis, it was trashed and burned by rioters on the backend of protests in the name of Floyd and police brutality toward people of color over the weekend.
“It looked like a war zone; it looked like a bombing in Fallujah,” Barbarawi, 36, told Fox News. “Everything around me was rubble, my neighbor’s sci-fi bookstore had burned to the ground. It came out of nowhere.”
His nightmare began around midnight on Friday when his security company called his home to say the alarm had been activated. Police were called, but they informed the company that they were too overwhelmed to tend to the scene.
“I started watching the security camera footage, all I could do was watch people breaking in and damaging or taking everything they could possibly touch,” Barbarawi said. “They were taking dental equipment I am sure they have no idea what to do with. I was advised not to go, but it was so shocking and devastating watching all of this on camera and not being able to do anything.”
Scores of different groups of around four to nine at a time – mostly young men – hustled in and out of the shattered doors, laying waste to everything Barbarawi had spent his adulthood building.
But the worse was only to come.
“I get another call from the security company that the smoke detector had been activated, they set the office on fire,” Barbarawi continued. “But like the police, even the fire department was not able to go in. I just had so many thoughts, why a dental office? What benefit are they going to get from this?”
It wasn’t until hours later, in the early hours of Saturday, that first responders were able to access what was left of his ruptured livelihood. Barbarawi was also told it would take days for a police report.
Yet the thing that hits home the most is the pile of charred furniture, broken glass, and cauterized toys where the special playpen for children once stood.
“I love what I do, but what I loved the most and what I really wanted to do was to help children. That was passion,” Barbarawi said. “I wanted to make it an environment that was fun and pleasant.”
His practice had already been hit hard by the pandemic, but for two months, the dentist had been busily stocking personal protective equipment for his staff and patients. The eight who work for him, having been financially stretched while out of work for two months, were excited to serve those in need again.
“All of a sudden, we have this other big challenge,” Barbawi said. “We are all sad, we are angry, but we are very optimistic. I am a hardworking man, and I want to fix this and start again as soon as possible.”
In Southern California, business owners were also impacted by the rioting.
Afrouz Nosratian was at home watching the news on Saturday around 7 p.m., two hours after the city’s designated lockdown, when footage of their business, Santa Monica Car Sound – which has been a staple of the area for more than three decades, being ransacked by scores of looters aired.
“We drove there and had to wait across the street and watch as 50-60 people went in and out taking whatever they wanted,” Nosratian said. “There were no police in sight. They couldn’t come until way later, long after they [the looters] had gone.”
A neighboring business owner tried to stop them soon after the stealing spree began, Nosratian explained, but allegedly had a gun pulled on him and was forced to retreat.
She described the thieves as being mostly “very young men” donning masks, caps, and sunglasses – with many of them loading up expensive cars with anything and everything they could find inside the store, which specializes in the stereo systems and Bluetooth to window tinting and navigation.
Like scores of other small-business owners in the beachside enclave, there was little left when they went inside. Even the electrical cords were severed.
“Watching them rob us and not being able to stop it was just a nightmare,” Nosratian continued. “I’m having trouble sleeping and focusing on anything. This wasn’t a normal robbery or break-in, everything is broken, they took everything – every single gadget from us.”
Some owners also took the desperate step while boarding up their store to write that it was “black-owned” in the hopes of being spared, but likes the bright pink boutique Sorrell on Melrose Ave, their pleas fell to deaf ears.
Others said they escaped the looting by a stroke of luck.
Klau Moeller, the owner of the Ben & Jerry’s on California’s famed Venice Boardwalk, said he spent a worrying weekend with friends boarding up the store ahead of the riots that ripped through parts of Los Angeles.
“Instead of trying to save our business after the effects of COVID, we have to board up the store, close the business and send home our staff who so desperately need to work again,” Moeller said. “It is like the looters put the proverbial nails in our coffin.”
In Moeller’s estimate, 50 percent of the stores on the storied strip by the sand – one of the country’s most visited tourist destinations – are already shuttered as a result of the protracted pandemic lockdown and its likely a large chunk more will go out of business after the once-bustling summer tourist season wanes.
The issue of insurance remains a murky one, amplified by heartbreaking scenes of business owners begging looters not to enter because they could not afford riot insurance in their policy packages.
“If you were one of the unfortunate business owners to cancel your policy because of the coronavirus lockdown, you will be left out of pocket,” noted Ken Mahoney, president of New York-based Mahoney Asset Management. “But the biggest issue most likely to arise will be to determine what items are covered and the extent of coverage. Riots and looting are not commonplace, meaning any old policies that haven’t been updated might only offer minimal coverage. For example, there could be a number of policies that need special glass endorsements to cover window replacements, leaving owners out of pocket.”
And ultimately, Mahoney underscored, all small business owners will end up paying the price once the smoke simmers.
“We can definitely expect to see a rise in property and business coverage on the back of the riots, similar to the rise in health and life insurance coverage prompted by the coronavirus pandemic,” he added. “As national and international tensions rise, emotions continue to run high, and everyday life presents more difficulties, people want to become better prepared for these unexpected events.”
The post ‘It was a war zone’: 3 small-business owners who lost everything in riots speak out appeared first on Fox News.