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Businesses now need to take a stance on looting — and small business owners lose to giant corporations either way


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When President Donald Trump visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, the owner of Rodes Camera Shop wasn’t interested.

Tom Gram’s 109-year-old store had burned down during unrest following the police shooting of Jacob Blake. He declined to meet with the president, who was looking to tour Kenosha’s looted businesses. Gram told local news outlet TMJ4, “I think everything he does turns into a circus, and I just didn’t want to be involved in it.”

So Gram was shocked to see Trump next to his store on the news anyway — with someone else posing as the owner: his former boss, John Rode III. Gram had bought the business eight years prior from Rode, who still owns the property.

“I just appreciate President Trump coming here today; everybody here does. We’re so thankful that we got the federal troops in to help because once they got here, things did calm down quite a bit,” Rode said.

That was the scene depicted in official White House coverage of Trump’s visit: small business owners devastated by property destruction in the wake of protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

But just across town, another kind of business owner sent a very different message: Bill Penzey, the owner of Penzey’s Spices, announced he would “loot” his own store to show his support for the protests. Penzey said he would donate a day’s worth of inventory from his Kenosha store to food banks and nonprofits over the next few weeks.

“Someone wrote to say that you would be singing a different tune if it was your store being looted,” Penzey wrote in an email to customers. “I’m by no means perfect but seriously no, I wouldn’t. Human life means everything; stuff, not so much.”

As America’s understanding of looting evolves, so does the way looting is used to drive political narratives. And how a business owner responds to looting has become not just a moral decision, but also a business decision — and one where the stakes grow exponentially the smaller a business is.

‘I’m just trying to protect my business’

Police say looters are often career criminals using protests as a cover to burglarize. Protesters have often been vocal and physical about preventing looting, saying it dilutes their message. Still, looting has become widely perceived as being connected to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Meanwhile, vigilante activity by right-wing groups and individuals has been linked with “protecting” businesses. Kyle Rittenhouse claimed to have traveled to Wisconsin in order to defend businesses from rioters on August 25. The 17-year-old is now charged with shooting and killing two protesters that night.

As a result, a stance on looting is now seen as a stance on Black Lives Matter.

For big businesses, the calculus that comes in the wake of looting is relatively simple. These national retailers are able to absorb the costs through insurance and capital. Many have publicly supported Black Lives Matter in their corporate messaging without fear of rocking the boat. And few have addressed the impact of looting, …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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