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Local businesses report little damage so far during protests
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Protesters fill the streets in Gainesville on Saturday, May 30, 2020. - photo by Shannon Casas

Cori Hughes never doubted the people of Gainesville. 

Hughes, a shift leader at Downtown Drafts on the Gainesville Square, said she and her co-workers had concerns about potential damage to the business after watching peaceful protests in Atlanta turn violent Friday night but trusted that the local protest would not get out of control.

“There were some high tensions outside,” she said. “But we just had faith in Gainesville and they proved us right.” 

With protests going on around the country, businesses in many cities have faced vandalism and looting. But through the first few days of protesting in Gainesville, that hasn’t been much of an issue for local businesses so far, and most report no negative fallout from the weekend’s events.

Though Gainesville police originally reported that windows had been broken at Slack Auto Parts on Main Street, Slack manager Barry McNicholas said the report was false and that the only damage the building had suffered was some graffiti paint. 

McNicholas said weekend business was largely unaffected by the protests.

“As far as adversely affecting business, I can’t say it’s done that,” he said. “The biggest change this morning has been everybody wondering about damage that doesn’t exist.”

Lauren Waycaster, a manager at Inman Perk Coffee on the Gainesville Square, said that peaceful interactions between protesters and police officers was key to keeping things from getting out of hand. 

The relatively peaceful nature of the protests came as no surprise to Waycaster, who said she’s always seen Gainesville as an exceptionally safe community. She said she is pleased that protesters have been allowed to continue without much police interference or escalation.

“From what I’ve seen so far, the police have been letting the protesters do what they came to do, which I really appreciate,” Waycaster said. “As a business, we agree that justice needs to be served.”

Waycaster said the business has protocol in place to get employees to safety in case things turned violent, but she is not expecting to have to use them. 

Brandon Beeco, an assistant manager at Wild Wing Cafe on Jesse Jewell Parkway, said the restaurant also has an emergency plan in place, which includes early closing and a rendezvous point for all employees to check in to make sure everyone gets to safety, but he is also not expecting it to be necessary. 

“There was a little bit of anxiousness on Saturday beforehand, because we weren’t really sure what was going to happen,” he said. “But it seemed like everything went fairly smooth, so we’re just happy nobody got hurt. Nothing was damaged or anything like that.” 

Beeco said that Wild Wing Cafe stands behind local protesters and those around the country, so long as the local protests do not turn to violence, looting and vandalism.

“We definitely support the cause,” he said. “We’re just glad that there was no violence or destruction or anything. We would just encourage people if they do want to keep protesting, do the same thing. Keep it professional. Keep it organized. But we definitely support the cause.”