Peoria makes national headlines highlighting businesses impacted by looting

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria business owners recount the lingering impact of citywide looting the first weekend of June. Some owners said they are worried it will happen again.

The New York Times published an article Wednesday, titled “City That Once Guided a Nation Now Shows it’s Cracks,” highlighting Peoria owners’ plights and their recovery process.

Janet Cornish-Davis, co-owner of Janet’s Just For You shared her experiences during the pandemic and fear of further financial despair from future backlash.

“Don’t destroy where you live that’s all I’m asking because we’re all working hard to have what we have,” Davis said.

While other surroundings businesses in Peoria were ransacked between May 31 and June 2, Davis was spared. She boarded up her windows and doors as a precautionary measure and still has them up to this day.

“A lot of the businesses are still boarded up so lets just wait this out a minute,” Davis said.

Post looting, Bremer Jewelry store owners had to pick up the pieces. The marketing manager and daughter of the owner, Ashley Stegall, said they made the list of vandalized properties. Stegall said the looting did not hurt her families business as much as the global pandemic.

“[COVID-19] hurt a lot more than the rioting, looting and vandalism because you know I think we can all relate to that hurt people hurt people,” Stegall said.

Stegall said she and her family responded to the vandalism with a positive message of reconciliation and forgiveness. The windows that were broken into are now covered up with ply-wood, but the wood now takes the form of a mural with flowers and butterflies. She said the destruction of property was not personal.

“The people that are upset I cannot relate with them and that’s either my fault or the fault of my circumstance or whatever it is, but I understand pain and I understand hurt,” Stegall said.

The New York Times author also spoke with mayoral candidate Chama St. Louis who said, “Looting places like Walmart and Dollar General may have been the only way to get the city’s attention.” St. Louis said understanding why this happened is significant.

WMBD spoke to Mayor Jim Ardis, he said that The New York Times did not reach out to him for comment.

The publication also highlighted the disparities facing Black Peorians. The article reads, “…A City Where Many Black Residents, Who Make Up About 27 Percent Of The Population, And White Residents Experience Starkly Different Economic Realities.”

Mayor Ardis, not fond of the exposure responds. He said, “…This situation that they talk about in Peoria could be any community across the country that experience those things.

Mayor Ardis said he is focusing on dissecting the underlying tension within the community and fixing issues related to racial justice and equality.

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