In the aftermath of riots descending on Santa Monica on Sunday, more than 17 local businesses – damaged and looted inside the beachside enclave – have had to turn to the crowdfunding site GoFundMe for immediate assistance, their future existence in jeopardy.
"Communities like Santa Monica, California were ideal for this round of protests and riots because they fit the agenda of 'bringing the pain to the affluent,'" Dennis Santiago, a Los Angeles-based Global Risk, and Financial Analyst told Fox News. "The area of the city looted and vandalized is a focal point of the liberal, easy-going, and diverse values tolerant ethos of that community. This belief set is what was brutally shattered by these events."
While looters in many cities have pledged to focus on large franchises and companies for their thieving, much of what was decimated in Santa Monica was already struggling small businesses.
Among those business owners who have turned desperately to the crowdfunding site include Sunny Optometry, of which every member of the staff belonged to a minority and was founded by a first-generation immigrant.
"We helplessly witnessed our life's work vandalized, stolen, and burned. The looters were so thorough they stole everything, including receipt paper, pennies, and lint in our drawers before setting it all ablaze," the owners wrote. "We are eternally grateful for the brave police and firefighters who managed to mitigate the damage and prevent the office from becoming a pile of ash."
Then there is the beloved HiDeo Ho Comics, a Santa Monica fixture for some 43 years, the popular Sake House that was guttered and burned into oblivion, the family-run Jack's Jewelers, the famed Bangkok West Thai, other independent restaurants and coffee houses, Thunderbolt Spiritual Books, and several small salons.
"During the Los Angeles riots, iWithNails was damaged along with several other local and minority-owned businesses located on Lincoln, in Santa Monica, California," their GoFundMe states. "We had a grand opening a couple of weeks before the pandemic hit, and our business is suffering a tremendous loss. The windows and doors have been smashed and vandalized. Our Salon was ransacked, and expensive tools & equipment were stolen. Our Nails Tech's supplies were taken, now these hard-working people do not have a job to go back to."
In another example, Santa Monica Camera says that the local business "was completely destroyed and robbed."
"Knowing the humble, kind, accepting family of the co-owner, Joe Padilla, personally, it deeply saddens me to see this senseless destruction of their livelihood," writes the campaign organizer. "These are good, loving people."
For many, turning to the community might be the only recourse to survive.
"For the shopkeepers who lost it all, it's devastating. Many Santa Monica businesses never anticipated needing riot insurance coverage. Many did not have it, or chose to forego it, to save on operating expenses," Santiago noted. "There is no insurance payment if your policy doesn't cover it. It's led some to ask for help from the community. It's a desperate ask hoping to restore what was shattered in the name of political virtue."
Following months of lockdown amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many businesses in the area – which lean heavily on tourism – have already endured severe economic hardship. Some were slated to open their doors for the first time on Monday as the city steadily lifts its stringent closure mandates, only to be ransacked hours earlier.
The reasons as to how and why Santa Monica was hit so hard by looters remains murky, given that law enforcement imposed an early lockdown, but some anticipate it was primarily driven by both opportunism and an intention to harm.
"Protesters have definitely targeted this neighborhood to ensure their voices and beliefs are heard. However, many of the protesters are of all ethnicities and, in large, have carried out peaceful protests, but with such a significant social media presence nowadays, nothing goes unnoticed," observed Ken Mahoney of Mahoney Asset Management. "Unfortunately, it will be the small business owners left holding the bag, and after months of lost revenue because of the coronavirus, they are now faced with huge damages to their livelihoods."
Nonetheless, crowdfunding donations also point to the spirit of the American people even during a time of severe financial woes, given the damage that has stemmed from the coronavirus measures.
According to calculations by Fox News, more than $235,000 has been raised – primarily by anonymous donors – for those small businesses in Santa Monica that have launched online campaigns.
"Communities always surprise you. It's not the money, it's the soul that brings a community back," Santiago added. "It can add up quickly when a community comes together. That's what makes America the great country it is."