Rows of plywood covered the facades of luxury stores and small businesses across New York City on the eve of the US presidential election as America braced for possible unrest and violence in a bitter and divisive race to the White House.
Stores along the posh 5th Avenue in Manhattan as well as across the city were boarded up and workers were seen drilling plywood onto the stores' facade late in the night, amid fears that Election Day could bring violence, looting and clashes, similar to the chaos seen in the summer during protests over the death of George Floyd.
The 2020 US Presidential Election is being touted as the election of a lifetime and is seeing an unprecedented level of anxiety and fear across America in the wake of a bitter election campaign.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that he has spoken with Police Commissioner Dermot Shea and there are no specific reports or specific threats of violence at this point.
â€śEveryone, of course, is concerned about the election results and what plays out after. But I want to emphasise, at this moment, we don't see a specific challenge. We are ready for all sorts of challenges. A lot of preparation has been happening over the last few weeks,â€ť de Blasio said during a press conference.
Responding to a question on concerns about violence in the city on and after election day and stores boarding up, he said every store owner has to make their own decision and he respects the decision of each store owner.
â€śWe are not giving guidance to store owners to do that, but if that's what they choose to do, we certainly understand. I want to talk about Election Day and the aftermath. Everyone's thinking about this deeply. Everyone's concerned, he said adding that the city should be prepared for the fact that the election results will not necessarily be a 100 percent clear on Tuesday night or even on Wednesday.
And, right now, we're all very troubled, seeing the President of the United States question in advance the validity of the election. We've never seen that before from a president. We've never seen a president encourage voter suppression and harassment in this kind of fashion. The American people are going to have the final say here,â€ť he said.
De Blasio added that over 95 million Americans have voted early â€śbut we are in an unprecedented time, there's a reason people are so worried, but I want folks to know this city is prepared. I want folks to know that for those who want to express themselves about the results, the way to do that is peacefully. That will always be honored.â€ť
A report in The New York Times said retailers and banks across the country have taken steps to prepare for potential disturbances and have even hired extra security. It said federal officials would erect a non-scalable fence around the White House and about 600 National Guard troops have also been designated to help respond to protests around the country if requested.
After looters ransacked luxury stores in Manhattan in June, during protests over Floyd's death, some businesses in New York City are particularly on edge and bracing for another potential blow.
The report added that last month, Shea had said in a memo to police officers that they should prepare for larger and more frequent protests around Election Day and continue through the end of the year.
â€śWe are on the dawn of a new era in this country, obviously something is going to happen tomorrow that's going to frame the future of our lives, whatever it is. We are all of us concerned about what happens tomorrow night and, in the aftermath, we have to be ready, but we also have to feel that we'll be able to manage it, whatever it is,â€ť de Blasio said.