election day

Fearing Election Unrest, U.S. Businesses Board Up Windows

Similar scenes played out in some other major cities across the U.S.

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Judging by the plywood, it’s shaping up to be an Election Day like no other.

In downtown Washington, the sounds of hammers and power tools echoed through the streets Monday as workers boarded up dozens of businesses. In New York City, businesses from Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square to high-end shops in Manhattan’s chic SoHo neighborhood had already covered their windows. Similar scenes played out in some other major cities across the U.S., with business owners fearing that Tuesday’s election could lead to the sort of unrest that broke out earlier this year.

Just a short walk from the White House, construction workers were carrying large sheets of plywood. For block after block, most stores had their windows and doors covered. Some kept just a front door open, hoping to attract a little business.

“We have to be ready,” said Ali Khan 66, who works at a now-barricaded downtown Washington liquor store where thousands of dollars in merchandise was stolen in June protests. “They smashed the windows and just walked out with everything.”

Washington authorities pledged to keep the peace, with police officials saying the entire department would be on the job on Election Day.

“Some people would like to cause mayhem and trouble,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “We are preparing to ensure the city’s safety.”

Living through a global pandemic has been stressful for almost everyone. Add in a polarizing presidential election and you have millions of Americans experiencing what experts have dubbed "election stress disorder."

Activists are preparing for another long-term occupation of Black Lives Matter Plaza, one block from the White House.

In New York City, a police department memo to officers called the vote “one of the most highly contested presidential elections in the modern era” and noted that the winner “may not be decided for several weeks.”

Police there have been holding tabletop exercises to prepare for potential unrest and shifting hundreds of officers to patrol duties.

“We want to be very careful not to either over-police, because that that could send a signal, or under-police,” said John Miller, the department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking last week on a local radio show, said it was too early to predict what would happen, but that the city would be ready.

Forget the red and blue election map. The most important map to watch on Election Night is one that shows when each state starts counting its early ballots. The differing rules states use to prioritize when early voting ballots are counted may create a blue or red “mirage” on Election Night that shows early leads for either Joe Biden or President Trump that slip away once more votes are tallied. NBCLX's Noah Pransky explains.

“We’re going to be prepared for a lot of protests, prolonged protests, potentially different protest groups confronting each other,” he said. “If anything turns violent, we’re going to move to stop that immediately.”

Chicago was also bracing for the possibility of unrest surrounding Election Day with buildings and business downtown boarding up windows and police taking other security steps to prepare.

Chicago also police set up "business hotlines" in 22 districts where business owners "can call if they are concerned about their safety," NBC Chicago reports.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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