Richmond businesses board up storefronts ahead of Election Day

Northam: 'I encourage all Virginians to stay calm.'
Posted at 6:43 PM, Nov 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-02 23:44:08-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Several businesses situated along West Broad Street began boarding up their storefronts a day before Virginians head back to the polls.

CBS 6 caught up with a contractor drilling plywood boards over the windows of Rainbow located at North 3rd and West Broad Streets on Monday.

Anissa Booker manages the clothing store in downtown Richmond.

“We are just protecting ourselves and the store,” Booker explained. “They’re very concerned about the results of the voting, either way, they’re afraid it could start riots again.”

Virginia’s capital is certainly no stranger to drawing a crowd, no matter the political affiliation or ideology.

The city saw numerous protests and riots over the summer. Protesters and city leaders said a few bad actors took advantage of the situation to create chaos and destruction.

“I get everybody is different. I would just love for us to be different together without the violence and anger,” Booker said.

A worker was also spotted putting up plywood board on the windows outside of the CVS pharmacy at the intersection of West Broad Street and Arthur Ashe Boulevard.

A Richmond Police Department spokesperson said in a statement they do not disclose tactical information.

“However, The Richmond Police Department is prepared and dedicated to ensuring public safety before, during, and after Election Day,” according to the statement.

Virginia Capitol Police Public Information Officer Joe Macenka said the department and their law enforcement partners have been planning how to best protect people and property.

“We encourage all parties to be respectful of each other before, during and after casting their ballots, and we remain committed to doing our part to encourage a safe election. We understand that emotions are running high as we approach the end of what has been a particularly difficult year for many people, just as we hope everyone understands and appreciates that voting is a basic right in our nation,” Macenka wrote in a statement.

"The bottom line is, individuals have the First Amendment right to be out there and be heard,” said Zachary Terwilliger, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “That's what makes America the great country that it is. However, when you cross that line and destroy someone’s property, or you burn down a building or physically attack someone, whether law enforcement or another citizen, that's where we will step in and get involved."

Terwilliger says he's prepared to prosecute demonstrators who cross the line.

"We are going to look at the conduct and each case will be treated individually,” Terwilliger said. “As with any case, we will have to make sure the conduct matches the element of the offense with probable cause for an arrest, then once we go to court, we have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. We hope to do so and get a conviction."

For now, some businesses downtown are boarding up, with is a something you might see in bad weather situations. You might call this a different kind of storm.
"They're very concerned about the voting and either way it could start the riots again."

CBS 6 spoke to Governor Ralph Northam and Senator Mark Warner at a final canvass in Richmond on Monday.

“First of all, I encourage all Virginians to stay calm,” Gov. Northam stated. “We’ve watched just as you have the threats out there and we are taking it very seriously.”

Northam urged voters to be patient as results may take longer to come in compared to previous years.

Sen. Warner said he spoke to senior FBI leaders and intelligence experts over the weekend.

“We are in a better position 24 hours out this year than we were four years ago,” the Democratic Senator replied.

Warner said Iranians and Russians are both trying to spread disinformation in order to influence the election.

“I know we are prepared, but my concern is no one’s right to vote should be impeded from partisans from either camp,” he explained. “If it’s folks from the left or the right are out tomorrow are trying to impede people’s ability to vote they need to be called out and law enforcement needs to be brought to the table.”

Warner is heavily favorited to win against Republican-challenger Dr. Daniel Gade for his Senate seat. Warner is running for a third term.