PHILADELPHIA, P.A. — A year ago today, George Floyd died. Thereafter, hundreds of businesses across the nation were looted by Black Lives Matter and other radicals. MN Fashion and Jewelry in West Philadelphia was one of them.
Masum Siddiquee stood in his home at 2:30 a.m. with his eyes glued to the surveillance cameras depicting activity in his store, he said. His two-decade-old shop, which sells cell phones, games, and jewelry, was being ransacked by criminals. Siddiquee was ready to go to the store and burst through the doors to protect it, but his wife advised him against it.
“I tried to come to my store but my wife said ‘No, don’t go, they’re going to kill you,’” Siddiquee told The Federalist. “I came back four or five hours later after dawn.”
When he finally arrived, the looters were gone. They had taken $200,000 worth of goods and the windows of the storefront were smashed, he said. He cleaned up the place himself, and said, “Everyone was watching, but no one was helping.” The Bangladesh immigrant had worked hard for what he had, and it was destroyed in the blink of an eye.
Before the riot that destroyed it, Siddiquee’s business was closed for more than two months because of strict coronavirus restrictions in the Commonwealth. After opening, he taped signs to the doorway informing customers that only two people with masks at a time could walk in. Only this month is Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf finally easing pandemic orders. But until 70 percent of Pennsylvanians have been vaccinated, Wolf’s mask mandate remains.
The shop owner was denied a bank loan and received no coronavirus aid. He has relied on neighbors for help.
“I borrowed a lot of money from people and my area and I’m still trying to,” he said. “I’m trying to arrange all those things. I’m trying to get back my business.”
The doors are still shuttered to customers. When I spoke to Siddiquee upon calling his store, he answered only because he had happened to stop by and grab an item. He said he “is suffering profoundly” and has “lost everything.”
52nd Street, where MN Fashion and Jewelry is located, was a hotbed of criminal activity during the Floyd riots. Many of the businesses targeted were minority-owned. Given that black-owned businesses experienced a 41 percent decline due to lockdowns, it was an even more brutal blow when BLM descended on the streets.
In June, more than 200 Philadelphia community leaders and groups came together to call for the violence to end after people’s livelihoods were destroyed. Park West Town Center, a $55 million development on 52nd Street, incurred a significant amount of damage in the riots.
Close to 30 people looted the ShopRite grocery store and it lasted 15 hours, the store owner told a local CBS affiliate. All cash registers were destroyed and the pharmacy was swept clean of drugs. Empty bottles of alcohol were thrown around. The insured damage was more than $1 million.
Paradise Gallery, which sells silver, fragrances, and hijabs, was also looted. It’s getting back on its feet. The owner, Melaku Antoine, rents space from Siddiquee. He moved to Philadelphia more than 30 years ago from Ethiopia.
Thieves took around $80,000 worth of goods from Paradise Gallery. Antoine did not have insurance but has slowly been regaining his business while staying open. When he got to his business during the chaos, people were using carts to steal products.
“We lost everything,” Antoine said in an interview. “And then now we just got help from grants and loans. That’s where we are right now. They destroyed the front gate inside the glass door. They go through that and took everything inside the store, and the credit card machine.”
There are hundreds of businesses in the United States like MN Fashion and Jewelry and Paradise Gallery that were upended by the Marxist BLM movement’s decision to violently take to the streets. Axios released a report in September 2020 outlining the estimated $1 billion to $2 billion price tag of the riots from May 26 to June 8. This early estimate makes BLM’s destruction the most expensive in insurance history. The Insurance Information Institute noted upon releasing the data that “this is still happening, so the losses could be significantly more.”
Philadelphia proposed a $19 million funding increase for the police department prior to the pandemic. But during the BLM protests and riots last June, the budget was slashed. Many blame Democrat Larry Krasner, the district attorney, for failing to prosecute criminals and going soft on far-left aggression.
Krasner recently trounced primary challenger Carlos Vega — a Democrat candidate backed by law enforcement — in a primary. He has aligned with the leftist view on “systemic racism” and, to date, has filed 75 lawsuits against the city’s police department. A month ago, 153 ex-prosecutors in Philadelphia penned a letter urging voters to reject Krasner in the primary. The initiative did not root him out.
Siddiquee is guarded about condemning the rioters. He just wants his business back, and said that if he takes a position “they will come back and kill me.”