Downtown Seattle businesses prepare for possible riots while awaiting Derek Chauvin verdict

Between the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and more police shootings nationwide, tensions are running high.

There is a lot of fear and anxiety about what happens next in many cities where protesters are taking to the streets. In Seattle, businesses are bracing for potential violence following the Chauvin verdict.

"It’s pressing the repeat button. They’ve already alerted us that they’re going to board up the building in anticipation for what happens possibly tomorrow, the next day. We don’t know when that decision is going to come down," said Joey Rodolfo, owner of Buki Brand.

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Business owners like Rodolfo said they can't forget what happened downtown in May 2020, when a peaceful protest honoring George Floyd was taken over by rioters who attacked police, smashed windows and looted businesses. Buki Brand was one of the dozens of businesses ruined. 

"Our store was right in the line of fire. People were pulling computers out, throwing our inventory out in the streets, throwing our mannequins out. So our store got decimated, rocks through the windows," said Roldolfo.

For weeks, Rodolfo’s business was boarded up as his team tried to recover from damages and lost revenue. He said he fears history will repeat itself once the Chauvin trial ends. As he plans for what might happen, Rodolfo is thinking of a permanent solution.

"Once we get boarded up again, the final decision is 'let’s go ahead and shut it down. Let’s go ahead and shut it down,' and that’s where we are right now. After getting today’s notice that the building is going to be boarded up again, there’s no sense, there’s no sense," said Rodolfo.

Directors with the Downtown Seattle Association said they are working closely with the Seattle Police Department to be notified of any planned marches and impacts to downtown. Directors said they will communicate with business owners and residents as they learn more from police.

RELATED: Downtown Seattle businesses damaged, riot declared in Portland in wake of Minnesota police shooting

"Like others across the country, we’re paying close attention to the Derek Chauvin trial and anticipating a verdict as early as this week. Downtowns have always been a place where people come to exercise their rights to free speech, and we fully support those who choose to come downtown to march, protest and make their voices heard peacefully," a representative with Downtown Seattle Association said. 

Rodolfo said he is concerned the heads-up from the association won’t be enough for the community still recovering from last year. 

"This happened because of no leadership. And the fact that our police department was given a stand-down order, they were never allowed to do their jobs or protect law-abiding citizens like ourselves. Here we are, taxpayers, having to take this in the chin," said Rodolfo. "The mayor’s not bringing any traffic downtown with no conventions, no cruise ships. Everybody been scared to come downtown. What’s the point of trying to run a business in Seattle? There’s no point."

With no hope for his corner boutique surviving another riot, Rodolfo said he believes it is time to pack up.

"We are going to start moving our merchandise out. There’s no sense in staying in there, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, at least not any time soon. So it’s time. It’s time to make that difficult decision to move out of downtown Seattle altogether," said Rodolfo.

The Bellevue Police Department also has an operations plan in place in case there are riots in the city. The department’s public information officer said their staffing portal will be locked down so that no staff take time off when responding to riots. The department’s data analysts are monitoring social media for any chatter. The public information officer said they have not seen or heard any indicators about riots in Bellevue thus far.

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