TAMPA (CW44 News at 10) June 1, 2020 – As large protests in response to police brutality and the death of George Floyd wrapped up in Tampa Sunday, many business owners are left picking up the pieces after one of those protests lead to looting and large fire.
Champs on Fowler Avenue in Tampa was set to flames Sunday night. The next morning, the only sounds left were drips falling from the ceiling and shards of glass falling to the ground.
“I know that for the most part Saturday morning started very peacefully and as the night fell, that’s when everything kind of went sideways. In response to that we saw the mayor enact the curfew. Second day of protests, again they started peacefully, as the night falls, it kind of takes a different turn,” said Roberto Torres, President of Blind Tiger Café.
Dozens of people were arrested and several businesses were damaged.
Now, others are taking steps to prevent it from happening to them.
Owner of Blind Tiger Café in Tampa, Roberto Torres, says he absolutely stands with those protesting for change but doesn’t want his businesses to be targeted. Torres owns nine businesses across Tampa Bay, and he says he stands with those peacefully protesting.
“For a community that has been oppressed for so long, I sympathize, personally with that,” said Torres.
He says he was monitoring protests in proximity to his business. One of those protests happened about two blocks from one of his café’s on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd.
“Definitely torn because I know that, for the last hundred years, we have not only witnessed police brutality, but an unfair criminal justice system that punishes people of color and minorities,” said Torres.
But he doesn’t want to see businesses taking the brunt of it.
“It’s just glass and equipment. We can replace that all day. Obviously nobody wants to be a hit or a target. I guess, looking at it from both lenses, it’s different because, I personally would not like any sort of destruction of property but I do understand when it goes to that point, how selfless or hopeless somebody need sot feel in order to get to that state,” said Torres.
Although he looks to protect his business, he says he stands with his community through and through.
“If there’s anything that I can do, I mean we had employees of our own actually attend the march and I told them, listen, be smart, be safe. It would be ridiculous for us to turn a blind eye. This affects everybody. It can be me, it can be my children.”