Fund set up to help Santa Cruz businesses damaged by riot

SANTA CRUZ — The Downtown Association today announced the establishment of a fund to help downtown business owners repair damage done during the May 1 anarchist riot.

Ever since rioters smashed windows, destroyed merchandise and spray-painted graffiti, shop owners and the Downtown Association, numerous residents have inquired about how to help, said Chip, the organization’s executive director. The association opened an account at Bay Federal on Monday to accept contributions to the relief effort, and the credit union has agreed to provide matching funds up to $5,000.

Chip, who goes by one name, said the Downtown Association likely will distribute the money equally between the 18 affected businesses rather than try to determine which ones suffered the most damage. The riot caused an estimated $100,000 in damages.

Emily Bernard, an owner of Dell Williams Jewelers, said news about the fund was heartwarming, especially on the day that crews finished replacing her store’s windows.

“I think it’s a really great reflection of our community coming together,” said Bernard, who is also a member of the Downtown Association board. “It shows how much good there is in the community despite the destruction.” Windows at Urban Outfitters, another of the hardest-hit businesses, were also replaced Monday. Some businesses worked with insurance companies to cover the cost, while others paid out of pocket to avoid increases in their premiums.
She said the damaged windows alone cost $3,000 total to repair, but the store is still adding up how much was lost in china, silver and other giftware that was scratched when shattered glass was sent flying. Since the riot, Bernard said customers have been streaming in, buying small gifts like pewter candle snuffers or crystal votive candle holders, just to help the generations-old business recover.

“This is a time when the community needs to pull together and support one another,” Carrie Birkhofer, president and chief executive officer of Bay Federal, said in a statement. “Businesses already struggling in this economy should not have to worry about how they are going to pay for damage caused by someone else’s violent acts.” Police and the FBI are still investigating the riot. Masked demonstrators threw rocks and other objects through storefront windows starting about 10:30 p.m. May 1 during what had been advertised around town and at UC Santa Cruz as a May Day dance party at the Town Clock. Authorities say they believe anarchist demonstrators used the event as a cover.

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