|As rioters took to the streets in Baltimore following the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, local politicians and news stations have increasingly become aware of the decades-long civil unrest that allowed the situation to escalate.
The arrest and fatal spinal injuries — injuries allegedly inflicted by the arresting officers — of Gray, a black resident of one of West Baltimore’s less affluent neighborhoods, were apparently the tipping point for residents who have long fought against local police brutality. President Obama gave a speech addressing the city’s high crime rate and high unemployment rate that has persisted since the city erupted in riots in 1968.
But for the small businesses that make up the core of Baltimore’s economy, the future of the city — rather than its past — is more of a concern.
The Baltimore Business Journal states that the economic impact of rioting, like what Baltimore has experienced this past Monday and Tuesday, can last for years. The Journal referenced a 2004 study of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which found that the city suffered sales losses of at least $3.8 billion over a period of 10 years.
Baltimore Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency in the city late Monday evening, but a substantial amount of damage had already occurred at that point. If anything, it’s likely that the impact of the rioting will far exceed Los Angeles’s $3.8 billion tab.
The online publication Baltimore Brew reported on Tuesday, April 28 that Baltimore’s mayor confirmed 144 vehicle fires and 15 structural fires in the city after two days of heavy rioting. Although protesters caused damage to federal- and state-funded infrastructure, they also targeted small neighborhood businesses.
A CVS store on Pennsylvania Ave., one of the few pharmacies in the neighborhood, was looted and burned to a crisp. On Charles Street, restaurants hesitantly opened their doors on Tuesday afternoon following a long night of looting. Some businesses, like the Harlem Mini Mart, were destroyed so badly that the owners are considering moving to a different location entirely. The average repair projects caused by typical property damage, which comprise about 36% of all renovation projects, don’t even come close to what these small Baltimore businesses are facing.
Positive reports of residents joining city cleanup efforts have begun sneaking through the cracks of the media’s sensationalist stories, which suggest that Baltimore is more resilient than it seems. The city managed to rebuild itself — slightly — after the 1968 rioting, but it remains to be seen if the city can rebuild again.