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Downers Grove

'All you sense is fear' Downers Grove businesses prepare for rumored protests

A worker finishes off boarding up a Main Street business in downtown Downers Grove Tuesday afternoon. Practically every business in the downtown area decided to cover doors and windows with plywood in anticipation of a rumored protest on Tuesday night. The protest was canceled, but shop owners fear their businesses could be subject to looting and property damage. Photo: Bob Rakow
A worker finishes off boarding up a Main Street business in downtown Downers Grove Tuesday afternoon. Practically every business in the downtown area decided to cover doors and windows with plywood in anticipation of a rumored protest on Tuesday night. The protest was canceled, but shop owners fear their businesses could be subject to looting and property damage. Photo: Bob Rakow

DOWNERS GROVE - Downtown Downers Grove was bustling Tuesday, but the scene was anything but typical.

Instead of residents walking along Main Street to patronize local businesses or enjoy lunch while seated outside one of the district’s many eateries, the sound of power saws and hammers could be heard everywhere as business owners prepared for the worst.

Owners were joined by employees and volunteers as they spent the afternoon boarding up store fronts in anticipation of a rumored protest they feared could turn ugly.

It happened Monday night in downtown Naperville when a protest turned violent and multiple businesses were looted and windows were shattered.

Violence also erupted late Monday afternoon in Cicero and before the havoc was over, two individuals were reported dead and several others injured.

However a Monday night protest in Glen Ellyn remained peaceful as a few hundred individuals marched from the Lake Ellyn Boathouse to the downtown area before returning to the lake.

Rumors of a protest in downtown Downers Grove gained momentum Tuesday morning on social media. Plans for the protest were later canceled partly because another event was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

That protest is scheduled to kick off from the Downers Grove North High School parking lot at noon June 7 and proceed down Main Street.

But some business owners feared a protest could still happen Tuesday night and decided to err on the side of caution by boarding up their shops.

Mark Callaghan, owner of Windy City Records, stood in front of his store as the a wooden frame was nailed around the perimeter of his window. Once the frame was complete, sheets of plywood would be affixed to protect the business from potential looting and destruction.

“We know what happened in Naperville. Businesses got trashed,” Callaghan said.

Callaghan initially believed boarding up his shop was “a bit of an over reaction” but changed his mind after walking around downtown and seeing how many other shops and restaurants decided to affix plywood to their windows and doors.

“There was a sense of anxiety in town. I can feel it,” he said.

“It’s happening everywhere," Callaghan added. "It’s happening everywhere, and it’s not the peaceful protesters that are causing this problem. It’s the agitators coming in.”

Sam Vlahos, owner of Pierce Tavern, was joined outside by employees and patrons, as they worked to secure not only his restaurant but neighboring businesses as well.

Vlahos was excited to reopen his establishment last Friday afternoon, the first day of Phase 3 of Gov. JB Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan.

But Pierce Tavern was forced to close early Sunday evening after the Downers Grove Best Buy on Butterfield Road was looted.

“We’re preparing just in case,” Vlahos said. “It’s unfortunate that things happen, but everyone wants to be prepared for their town."

“Everyone is doing their part. We’re in it all together at this point,” he said. “It’s a sad day for everyone.”

Nancy Belda, a 42-year resident of Downers Grove, walked along Main Street after getting a manicure, and said she was saddened by the steps business owners were forced to take to safeguard their property.

“My first thought is, it’s really, really sad,” Belda said. “My second thought is at least they are heads up and are protecting our community, which is really important for us.”

Belda, who had dinner at Pierce Tavern on Monday night, said the mood in the community has drastically shifted in less than 24 hours.

“Now, all you sense is fear," she said.

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