Birmingham business owners, volunteers clean up after destructive protests

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham business owners are cleaning up after destructive protests Sunday night in the downtown area.

A fire broke out at the California Fashion Mall, where there is also plenty of other damage to the doors and windows of the store.

Shattered glass remains scattered across the concrete.

“When I come here and saw it catch fire and I just prayed,” said David Kim, who has owned the business for about 35 years.

Kim, who is Korean-American, was moved to see so many volunteers helping him clean Monday morning. He estimated he lost about $200,000 worth of merchandise.

“Around me, there are many good people, but today I realize again that I am a lucky man to live in America,” said Kim.

Several other businesses also sustained damage, including restaurants, bank buildings, and abandoned properties.

At Adams Eye Care, owner Juanakee Adams has seen a lot of unrest in her 40 years as a Birmingham eye doctor.

“God blessed and enabled me to be the first black female to practice optometry in the state of Alabama,” Adams said.

Despite the damage to her shop, Adams said she will press on. She wants those doing damage to understand that lives are impacted by destructive protests.

“I’m hoping that they’ll see that this is a face behind it. This is not just an empty building,” said Adams.

While Adams is against violence, she understands the concern of the protesters. She thinks damaging property is counter-productive.

“It was heartbreaking and for no rhyme or reason and I am sympathetic to their plight, but this is not a remedy. This just creates another problem,” said Adams.

Volunteers came from all over the Birmingham area Monday to help.

“We’ve got a broom. We’ve got a dust pan,” said Jacob Irvin.

Irvin also supports the right to protest, but was surprised to see the violence that has played out in other cities.

“When you see it in your own town it really hits you in the heart a lot more,” said Irvin.

The cleanup will take plenty of time, but shop owners are thankful they’re not picking up the pieces alone.

“I’m just teared up. Teared up. I couldn’t believe it,” said Kim.

For any demonstrators who might be considering another round of destructive protests, business owners like Adams ask that you reconsider.

“Please look at me. Look at my colleagues, look at my neighbors and don’t do this to anybody else,” said Adams.

In addition to volunteers, Birmingham native and Comedy Central’s Roy Wood Jr. was also helping Adams clean up her shop.

She was overwhelmed at the support from the community.

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