CHICAGO – Protesting over the death of George Floyd deteriorated into looting in Chicago’s downtown and migrated into the suburbs over the weekend. Armenian-owned businesses and institutions were among those in danger and some suffered damage.
Oscar Isberian Rugs has four branches. The one on West Kinzie Street is in the River North neighborhood, a center of arts, tourism and restaurants. Co-owner Oscar Tatosian is the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Armenia in Chicago, and the store and the consulate share a common entrance. He noted that it was near an intersection with LaSalle Street which was one of the main arteries into the business district. The police did not close off that bridge because it is an important two-way street allowing security and emergency vehicles to pass.
Tatosian said of the crowd of looters on Saturday night May 30, “About midnight, they smashed windows, and smashed the door. They tried to get in but they couldn’t go any further. There were some display items they were able to steal. They graffitied the entire façade.” Tatosian added that the store, which also is the site of the honorary consulate, was well barricaded from the inside as always so no special precautions were needed.
As the honorary consulate, Tatosian said he was in communication with the mayor’s office and ready to help any Armenian citizens who require assistance. So far, fortunately he said, there has been no need for this in connection with the riots.
Brindille, a Michelin-star restaurant co-owned by chef Carrie Nahabedian, is also in the River North district and also had been attacked by looters. Its custom-made window was shattered by a fire extinguisher. In an article in the Chicago Tribune, reporter John Kass related her reaction: “I just broke down. I was sickened by what happened to Mr. Floyd; who wasn’t? But then Brindille is attacked? I know it’s just property and just a building and just a restaurant. Thank God nobody was hurt. But it’s our restaurant, it’s my dream, and all the love and care we put into it, and they destroyed it because they could. It’s personal, an attack on everything we stand for.”
Nahabedian said, “Their actions had nothing to do with the man, Mr. Floyd, who should have been honored. Look around the country. In all the cities. This was an organized attack. What does Gucci have to do with the murder of Mr. Floyd? Or Versace? Nothing. Or any place that was destroyed.” She added, “We’ve lost something critical. We’ve lost our civility. And that’s what’s breaking my heart.”