Vandals damage South Florida businesses struggling during pandemic

Thousands of “Justice for George Floyd” protesters marched peacefully against police brutality in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Officers in Miami believe about a dozen accused vandals traveled from other states seeking for crimes of opportunity. Officers in Fort Lauderdale arrested two accused vandals.

The damage hurt businesses that are already struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. They used spraypaint and rocks. There was graffiti at the Museum of Discovery and Science and at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale. Nearby, they damaged a $59,000 painting when they broke a window at the Wentworth Gallery on Las Olas Boulevard.

“I’m so sad. We’re still trying to get through the pandemic here," said Bonnie Cohen, who runs a business nearby and lives in Fort Lauderdale.

Detectives at the local, state and federal levels have ongoing investigations related to the looting and vandalism this weekend in South Florida.

In Miami, looters broke into five stores at the Bayside Marketplace, including Lacoste. Burglars also targeted jewelry stores and Miami Dade College. Dassuam Pedrosa said the thieves were savvy enough to steal the security system at NCF Florida. Pedrosa believes the burglars “hijacked” the protest.

“It’s hard and we are just trying to recover,” said Pedrosa, a manager at NCF Florida. “It’s just a total loss. It’s bad.”

A group of protesters who identified as members of Dream Defenders, the organization advocating for the Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act, formed a chain to stop vandals from damaging a CVS store on Biscayne Boulevard. Police officers in riot gear were standing nearby with orders to clear the streets after the 8 p.m. curfew.

Cohen said on Monday morning her hurricane shutters protected her business in Fort Lauderdale. The Florida National Guard and the Broward Sheriff’s Office were among the law enforcement agencies that responded to assist the Fort Lauderdale Police Department Sunday.

The other businesses damaged in Fort Lauderdale include the Vegan Fine Foods and O-Be House, the Gran Forno Bakery, the Sarracino Salon and Grand Central Stationary. Detectives are searching for other suspects.

Agents with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating whether outside agitators -- and not local protesters -- were responsible for the property damage and looting in South Florida, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said President Donald Trump has ordered Gen. Mark A. Milley to run a central command center tasked with keeping the peace.

“What the president has said is he wants to dominate the streets with National Guard,” McEnany said.

About the Authors: