August 29, 2020 7:35 am
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Businesses Flee From Portland, Citing Failure of Local Government to Protect Against Riots

Businesses are shifting operations from downtown Portland or scuttling plans to open stores because of rioting that’s kept going virtually every night since May 28.

Portions of the city are boarded up. Tens of millions of dollars of damage or lost business was caused by the unrest by early July. Rioters often gather around 9 p.m. and don’t disperse until early the next morning.

While many workers have been working from home since March because of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, a segment continued to work from Standard Insurance’s downtown headquarters until recently, a spokesman told The Epoch Times.

“Many of those employees who had remained in our downtown offices have now been temporarily moved to our Hillsboro campus to ensure their welfare in light of continuing safety concerns and property damage downtown,” the spokesman said in an email. “Several employees and security contractors have been assaulted near our downtown offices in recent weeks and months, and that contributed to the decision.”

Other business owners planned to open stores in Portland despite the pandemic. The riots convinced them to put those plans on hold or terminate them.

“We were actually going to open two stores in Portland, and then all this happened,” Joe Raetzer, co-owner of Steepologie Teas, told The Epoch Times.

Asked whether “all this” meant the pandemic or the unrest, he added: “Just purely the unrest. The riots.”

portland boarded up
portland boarded up
A pedestrian walks past a business damaged during recent riots, in Portland, Ore., on July 1, 2020. (Gillian Flaccus/AP Photo)

Steepologie also shut down their downtown Seattle location because of rioting there. An employee was assaulted inside the store.

In an interview with The Epoch Times’s sister media NTD Television, Uncle Fabe’s owner Fabian Gordon said he knows business owners who have started to sleep at their stores.

“They’re talking about going up on the roofs of their buildings with guns. They’re terrified. People are setting fires. When’s it going to happen to them?” he said. “They’re heavily armed and they’re all very afraid.”

Gordon said city and state officials seem to be handling the situation by hamstringing the police and pointed to the new prosecutorial policy of presumptively dismissing charges including riot, disorderly conduct, and interfering with officers.

“The leadership are obviously cowards. There’s just no other way to put it,” he said, adding: “Who in their right minds would come to start a business in Portland, going forward? Who in their right mind? Why would you? Why would you visit?”

In a recent letter to Portland City Council members published by local media outlets, a major developer said the effects the riots are having on business is unprecedented.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Rioters attempt to barricade a door to the Multnomah County Justice Center in Portland, Ore., on July 17, 2020. (Mason Trinca/Getty Images)
rioter in portland
rioter in portland
A rioter kicks an entrance to the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse after federal officers took shelter inside, in Portland, Ore., on July 21, 2020. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

“If you know a retail or office broker, give them a call and ask them how many clients they have are trying to leave. The number is like nothing I have seen in 42 years of doing business in downtown,” Greg Goodman of the Downtown Development Group wrote.

“Their departure has absolutely nothing to do with Black Life’s Matter [sic] movement (which has been a positive) but does have most everything to do with the lawlessness you are endorsing downtown. You are doing an excellent of enabling people who don’t know or care about George Floyd to ransack our city at the expense of the people you are trying to help,” he added. “Think how many jobs have been lost by people of color in our city, not through protest, but from vandalism. I would make the case that your actions have hurt those you have intended to help.”

Goodman said “a larger number of businesses are moving out of or locating outside of the Central City,” including Daimler Chrysler, Airbnb, Banana Republic, Microsoft, and Saucebox. Google is halting construction in the Macy’s building, he added.

A Google spokesman told The Epoch Times via email that the unrest has not impacted the company’s construction schedule. A Daimler spokesman said the company has no intention of moving its headquarters from Portland. An Airbnb spokesperson said employees have been working from home since March.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said in an email that some employees looked into the matter “and we have nothing to share.”

Gap, which owns Banana Republic, didn’t respond to an inquiry, nor did Saucebox.

Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
David Margulis, owner of Margulis Jewelers, emerges from a double layer of plywood doors he had installed to protect his store from protests that have dominated the city of Portland, Ore., since late May, on July 13, 2020. (Gillian Flacus/AP Photo)
Epoch Times Photo
Epoch Times Photo
Mannequins are seen through shattered glass at an H&M store in downtown Portland, Ore., on July 13, 2020. (Gillian Flacus/AP Photo)

The Downtown Development Group didn’t respond to requests for comment. The five Portland City Council members didn’t respond to inquiries.

“There’s been so much frustration and so many small retailers and businesses that have closed and big businesses are leaving downtown because they don’t think our elected officials don’t care,” Goodman told KPTV.

Wheeler touched on the issues facing businesses in a virtual briefing on Wednesday. “Violent extremists,” he said, have seized an opening “to do harm to our city, to scare our core downtown employers at night, to wreak havoc in an effort to drain city resources.”

“We must clean up the damage and the defacement of our downtown buildings, especially near the Justice Center,” he added.

Wheeler planned to meet with key stakeholders in the community to adopt certain measures to try to fix the issues. He says he will unveil publicly his solutions to how to support business recovery in the coming days, but the broad strategies include helping businesses that have suffered losses not covered by insurance and assisting in the clean-up of graffiti.

“We want to get about the business of cleaning up our community, of investing in our community, of restoring the confidence of employers in our community to be able to let people come back to the downtown area, in particular, and reopen,” he said, adding later that the city has to “work with our local employers to help them get back up on their feet and help their employees and their customers feel safe coming downtown.”

NTD reporter Melina Wisecup contributed to this report.

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