Over the weekend, people across the country took to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, and Dallas was no exception.
The weekend brought three days of protests into Downtown Dallas and nearby Deep Ellum, with thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to protest Floyd’s death and the larger scourge of police brutality nationwide. On Saturday night, the protests got particularly intense, with police shooting canisters of tear gas and rubber bullets into peaceful crowds that refused to disperse.
As the night went on, tensions between protesters and police escalated to the point that many businesses across the two neighborhoods were damaged, including the flagship location of Neiman Marcus in Downtown and a host of restaurants and bars in Deep Ellum, one of the city’s busiest nightlife districts. Windows were broken, graffiti was painted, and a few stores in the neighborhood were looted.
Within Deep Ellum, no two restaurants were affected in the same way. Most of All Good Cafe’s windows were busted out, which the restaurant used as an opportunity to serve brunch al fresco on Sunday. Neighborhood stalwart Deep Sushi also lost a few windows, and announced plans to close its doors “until further notice” due to the curfew. Cocktail bar Stirr was almost entirely unscathed, and reopened as usual for a busy brunch crowd.
Geometric pebbles of shattered safety glass covered the streets of Deep Ellum on Saturday night from the broken windows across the neighborhood. By Sunday, most establishments in the neighborhood had boarded up their windows, which artists used as an opportunity to paint murals criticizing police violence and honoring Jordan Edwards, Botham Jean, and Atatiana Jefferson, all victims of officer-involved shootings in DFW.
For Cliff Edgar, who owns fried chicken favorite Brick and Bones in Deep Ellum, the injustice of police brutality is a much greater concern than a few broken windows. “We feel the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters that has been building with each injustice, along with the feeling that all peaceful options have been exhausted,” Edgar says. “We can rebuild, but a life cannot be replaced. Until we systematically root out hatred and address these injustices, our community will not truly heal.”
Double Wide owner Kim Finch echoed Edgar’s point, opting to keep her bar’s temporary Git ‘n Go pop-up closed over the weekend. “We are okay, but now is not about us,” Finch wrote on Facebook. “There is a bigger issue at hand here that we all need to pay attention to and listen. We see you, we hear you, and we stand with you. We have a lot to do to get through this storm, but please know we want to be a part to help bring this so badly needed change.”
By Sunday morning, most of the broken glass had been swept away and empty windows were boarded over with plywood. The brunch crowds were basically back to normal, and many restaurants reopened. With more protests planned, though, Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall ordered a 7 p.m. curfew for Downtown, Deep Ellum, and other surrounding neighborhoods that’s expected to last for “several” days, forcing restaurants to close again and dealing another blow to establishments whose sales have been decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. Also expecting more protests, businesses boarded up the windows that hadn’t yet been broken.
At Nori Handroll Bar, owner Mark Lee says that his restaurant avoided any of the damage seen by other businesses in the neighborhood, but he’s not sure whether or not his business can survive the one-two punch of being shut down twice. “It’s been rough in terms of sales. We’ve already seen a 90 percent drop in sales because of COVID-19, but the last few days have been worse,” Lee says. “This curfew will have the entire community shut down for dinner, which is when we’re open.”
The power of community has been an impressive thing to watch in Deep Ellum, with local residents both joining in the protests and helping businesses sweep up glass and board up their windows on Sunday. It’s that sense of resilience that makes Lee hopeful. “I’ve been in Dallas for 34 years, and I’ve seen the resilience of this community time and time again,” he says. “The eagerness to support one another is what has kept Deep Ellum alive for so long, and the overwhelming positivity both online and in person is just another example that this will be another chapter in the district’s long history.”