Empower Wisconsin | July 23, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Lynne Derra’s eyewear store has been a State Street staple for nearly 40 years.
But in late spring, when a Black Lives Matter protest devolved into rioting and looting, Madison Optometric Center was in the eye of the violent storm. The mob tore through State Street, smashing windows, grabbing merchandise, setting fires and assaulting store owners and employees who dared to protect their property.
“As luck would have it, I had an angel outside my office with a gun,” Derra said of her next-door neighbor, the owner of a tattoo shop, who, after hearing the sound of smashing windows rushed outside with his unloaded weapon. It was enough to send an urgent message to the looters, who hightailed it down the street.
The optical shop’s $60,000 in inventory was saved, thanks to a fellow business owner with a concealed carry permit.
State Street, once Madison’s jewel destination shopping district, has become a haven for the homeless and criminals over the years. The riots that have ripped it apart this long, hot summer of civil unrest have retailers like Derra seriously thinking about getting out.
“It’s been dying a slow, painful death,” said Derra, who purchased the store at 512 State Street in 2012. “I think between the COVID-19 pandemic and the riots, or protests, or whatever you want to call them, it put the final nail in the coffin.”
More heartbreaking is a dangerously politically correct City Council that has lost its mind and turned its back on the people and businesses of arguably Madison’s most recognizable neighborhood.
Following an eight-hour meeting Tuesday, the council voted 14-6 to reject a $250,000 downtown recovery program. After all the damage, the hateful rhetoric of the far left council was salt in the wounds of State Street businesses.
Ald. Rebecca Kemble, seeking more money for another Madison “equity program” chastized Downtown as “the whitest neighborhood in the city.” Kemble, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, said the area already receives an abundance of city resources, and the city should focus on its black community.
“This is quite literally institutional racism,” Kemble sneered.
What Kemble and the whole woke city government clan don’t seem to get is that “institutional racism” is creating policy that discriminates against people because of the color of their skin. That’s what you’re doing when you deny assistance to “the whitest neighborhood in the city,” a neighborhood ravaged by “anti-racist” protesters.
State Street, coincidentally, is populated by several store owners of color, like Ashim Malla, co-owner of the Triangle Market. The convenience store was looted and nearly set on fire at least three times in the riots. He declined to be interviewed Wednesday, but in June he told Channel 3000, that the hard work he and his wife put in to build their version of the American Dream disappeared in minutes.
“It’s all our hard work, all the hours we put in just to make some money, do something here,” he said. “And right in front of our eyes they were like threatening us and smiling and saying there was nothing we could do.”
Now, there’s nothing Madison’s City Council will do for these entrepreneurs who came to America for a better life.
Tell the minority owner of a State Street resident how privileged he and his wife are after Gov. Tony Evers’ lockdown shut down the business in March. The restaurant reopened in late May for a mere 5 1/2 days before the riots closed it down for more than three weeks. It had to close again last week after two “protesters” assaulted the couple, spitting in the man’s face and punching his wife.
Now, the city’s power-grabbing health agents have drastically reduced restaurant capacity, and shut down indoor service at Madison bars.
“We need to make money, sir. We’re making 20 percent of our usual,” said the restaurant owner, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation.
As State Street businesses die, leftist Ald. Max Prestigiacomo, said a vote for the recovery program would be valuing “property over human lives,” according to the State Journal.
A lot of Downtown business owners are growing sick of that sentiment. They’ve worked hard, put in a lot of money and time, and they’ve played by the rules. More so, they’ve paid taxes — a lot of taxes — a good portion that has gone to the city’s police budget. It is all the more disturbing, they say, to know that Madison’s socialist mayor and her comrades in city leadership tied the hands of law enforcement, effectively allowing the looters and the thugs to attack and destroy State Street businesses while police were told to stand down.
Small business and property owners would have been able to apply for reimbursement grants of up to $25,000 for window replacement or other repairs, or to pay for insurance deductibles.
Miar Maktabi, owner of the Dubai Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar on State Street and a Syrian immigrant, told the State Journal his business sustained $39,000 in damage in one week. He pleaded with the city for help.
“You guys are burying us,” Maktabi said.
“It’s a bad state of affairs,” Derra, the owner of the eyewear store said. “I hope our city government wakes up and smells the roses.”