Meeting amid the wreckage of looted stores at Woodland Plaza
A somber 2nd District City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson met with a selection of community leaders in front of a burned-out store in the Woodland Village Plaza at 6100 Woodland Avenue Tuesday, June 2.
The range and tone of the remarks and conversations were striking! Profound sadness at the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other recent shooting, rapport with the national outpouring of grief, strong support for protests against police violence and for greater law enforcement accountability, a commitment to community unity to combat racism and reduce economic, health, education, and social disparities and support of programs to benefit young African American males.
The positive elements were in stark contrast to the ugly remains of looting on the sidewalks and visible wreckage strewn about inside the now boarded up shopping center businesses.
“I’m going to make it my mission to first bring healing into the community.” Councilman Johnson stressed. “Then, we have to work together on all the critical issues, housing, education, health, and jobs.
“We need to make a strong effort to overcome racial differences in the 2nd District and throughout the city,” he maintained. “Moreover, we can’t let outside agitators come between us.”
Moved by the damage around him, the Councilman mentioned that to get this initiative started he had organized a meeting of Southwest leaders on Thursday, June 4 at St. Paul’s A.M.E. Church at 84th and Lindbergh Blvd.
Also present was Musa Trawally, a commercial corridor manager for the African Cultural Alliance of North America (ACANA). Trawally outlined in grim detail how the current civil unrest was deepening the difficulties faced by small immigrant merchants along Chester, Woodland, and Elmwood Avenues. “These businesses were already in a desperate position because of the Covid-19 shutdown,” the distressed local advocate said. “As soon as possible, they need access to the loans, grants, and payroll protections available through the Small Business Administration.”
Trawally asked the City Council to look into this situation on an urgent basis. He noted that the average immigrant family income only marginally above the federal poverty level and many lacked health insurance that made them much more vulnerable during the pandemic.
The looting had apparently taken place early that morning. A bystander who did not wish to reveal her name mentioned that she had been driving past the Plaza on the way back from her night shift job and saw the fire. “I turned into the parking lot and immediately saw what looked like a hundred people running from store to store to some cars,” she recounted. “I knew from the radio what was probably happening and turned around and left, and then called 911 about the fire.” In all, six retail outlets and the corner food market were broken into. The two ATMs were smashed, and safes were uprooted and stolen from one establishment.