By M.D. Kittle
It was a nightmare. And Pamela “Sue” Moniz was walking through the middle of it.
Moniz, co-owner of The Mattress Shop in Kenosha, watched her business burn on one side of the street and her friend knocked unconscious on the other.
On the second night of race riots that would punch a hole in the heart of the Lake Michigan City, the Uptown Business District was in flames. Moniz’s employee, Robert Cobb, had been seriously injured while trying to defend the historic Danish Brotherhood building from arsonists. One of the rioters hit him from behind with a bottle filled with concrete, busting his jaw and knocking him out cold.
“He’s more than an employee. I don’t have friends, I have family,” Moniz said of Cobb. “It was devastating to roll up and see him hurt like that.
“It was devastating on multiple points: to my left I was watching my livelihood burn and on my right my dear friend was hurting.”
She tried to call an ambulance. It was futile. Uptown was a sea of humanity, pouring through the smoke and the sounds of smashing glass and angry chants. She told the emergency dispatcher to forget it. Ambulances couldn’t get through. Neither could fire trucks. Business owners helplessly watched their dreams go up in smoke. Moniz and her husband, by some miracle, were able to get Cobb to the Emergency Room in their car.
Tensions were high, for sure. The riots spun out of Black Lives Matter-led protests after a white police officer shot a black man named Jacob Blake. Blake had repeatedly resisted arrest while officers attempted to bring him into custody during a “domestic incident.” The officer who shot Blake was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing. But that was in the future. There was little context in the heated moment of a long, hot summer of intense social justice demonstrations and race riots.
Gov. Tony Evers didn’t help matters when he, shortly after video of the Blake incident, went viral, fired off incendiary political tweets. He made things worse by being slow to send in the National Guard to help local police keep the peace.
“I hate to say anything political, but I do think our governor failed us,” Moniz said. “I think he failed us horribly, and that saddens me even more because I voted for him.”
So Moniz, like so many other Kenosha business and property owners, could only watch helplessly as the rioters and the flames claimed so much of what they had worked for. The Mattress Shop had been in the neighborhood since 2009. Moniz, after working for the store since it opened, purchased it with her husband in 2014.
There was nothing salvageable from the store after the flames had their way with it. The Mattress Shop is in a new location, still in Kenosha, but removed from the site of the riots.
Moniz said the business is doing okay. They received some much-needed and appreciated help from the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and from some religious organizations. And she can’t say enough about the kindness of so many strangers who helped pick up Kenosha from the detritus of destruction.
But when this riot-ravaged city was begging for help from the governor and his administration, they were met with silence.
“Our local law enforcement were restricted in what they could do. They didn’t have the resources,” Moniz said. “They begged for the governor to send in the National Guard from the start, and they didn’t get it. And when they finally did get here, there weren’t enough to stop the destruction.”