By Arul Louis
An Indian-origin family’s car dealership was set ablaze by rioters in the protest-hit US city of Kenosha, Wisconsin destroying nearly 100 vehicles and causing damages worth $2.5 million, according to family members.
“Everybody watched it burn to ashes. Nobody did nothing about it, nothing,” Kenosha News on Saturday quoted family member Anmol Khindri as saying.
The newspaper said that he estimated the losses after the first attack on August 23 at about $1.5 million and after a second the following day at $2.5 million.
Josie Rodriguez, who lived next to the destroyed car dealership, told Kenosha News that when she phoned the police and fire emergency number, the operators told her it was not safe for firefighters to respond to the scene and did not respond.
Protests erupted in Kenosha following the August 23 police shooting of Jacob Blake, a 27-year-old Africa-American man.
The motive of the shooting by a white police officer remains unknown.
Another member of the family that owned the burnt-down car dealership interviewed by the conservative web site, The Federalist, said: “We didn’t have anything to do with this. I am a minority too. I am a brown person. I have nothing to do with this.
“This is not the America I came into. I could not even imagine (this happening).”
The family member told The Federalist that his parents had immigrated from India and built the business “tyre by tyre, car by car”, after saving money by working in petrol pumps and restaurants.
They started with six cars and turned it into a 100-car business which has turned to ashes, he said.
“We didn’t do anything. What did we deserve to all this? My family has been in tears for the last three, four days. We didn’t inherit this business. We built it from the ground up,” he added.
According to Kenosha News, a crowd-sourcing fundraiser for the family has been set up on Go Fund Me, an internet-based site where the public can make contributions.
The riots in Kenosha and across the US that are an offshoot of the Democratic Party-backed Black Lives Matter movement’s protests against racism and the police killing of African-Americans have become a politically divisive issue ahead of the November election.
The violence has come in handy for President Donald Trump to project his strident law-and-order stance, while his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, has been muted in his criticism of the rioting, looting and arson overshadowing the peaceful protests.
The Black Lives Matter protests began in May after the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American, on May 25 in Minneapolis when a policeman knelt on his neck for about nine minutes.
White people have joined the protests, sometimes outnumbering African-Americans.
Trump is scheduled to visit Kenosha on Tuesday to meet law enforcement officials and survey the damage from the riots, but the state’s Democratic Governor Tony Evers has asked him not to come.
Evers wrote to Trump that his “presence will only hinder our healing” and “delay our work to overcome division”.
Meanwhile, Biden was expected to visit Kenosha on Monday, but will now instead campaign in Pennsylvania.
Trump, who has threatened federal interventions in cities overrun by violence, scored a point when Evers called in the National Guard and also requested assistance from three other states.
Trump tweeted on August 28: “Success: Since the National Guard moved into Kenosha, Wisconsin, two days ago, there has been NO FURTHER VIOLENCE, not even a small problem.”
The President had sent federal law enforcement to Portland, Oregon to guard federal property despite protests by local officials and Democrats.
The Black Lives Matter movement has called for cutting police budgets and succeeded in some places, while the Minneapolis City Council gave in to protesters and voted to abolish the police department.
There has been a surge in crimes in major cities, which police union officials attribute to their demoralisation due to the anti-police sentiments.
The riots accompanying the protests have witnessed clashes, some of them armed, between left-wing demonstrators and right-wing counter-protesters.
A 17-year-old boy, who is from a neighbouring state and is white, shot and killed to people on August 25 during a confrontation with protesters in Kenosha.
On Saturday, a man belonging to a right-wing organisation, Patriot Prayer, was shot dead in the middle of a clash between the left and the right.
(Arul Louis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)