Portland as seen by the guy who installs plywood over broken windows

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The Apple store in Portland had just reopened when the George Floyd riots took place at the end of May 2020. The store was vandalized and looted that weekend as were a number of stores nearby.

Rioters smashed the windows of dozens of stores. They raided the shelves of a CVS Pharmacy and a locally owned cigarette shop. They snatched products from the Apple Store and sprinted up the escalators at the City Target. Some people set bonfires—including outside a pharmacy.

Today at 6 pm the Apple store is reopening again for the first time in nine months. The plywood that surrounded the store was painted with a George Floyd mural and has been partly taken down:

If you’ve ever wondered who puts up the plywood when Portland’s anarchists riot, wonder no longer. He’s a church-going guy named John who has a booming business that keeps him working 15 hour days:

Starting May 29, the night Portlanders protesting the death of George Floyd shattered windows, John worked 76 consecutive days, at least 15 hours a day.

“Our calls went through the roof,” John says, navigating the ice-slick streets. “We had the whole Target. That was a sh*tshow. We had one call come in for 45 windows right there on Yamhill. Just one call.”

John’s last name and the name of his company were left out of the story. He’s already had his company “doxxed” a couple of times by people who don’t appreciate him protecting all of those windows. The lack of love is very mutual. John’s not a fan of the vandals or their idea of justice. He’s seen up close what it does to families who own businesses downtown:

John describes himself as conservative, a churchgoing man among the socialists, with no love for window-breakers.

“The most jacked-up part of this is seeing families sobbing,” he says. “It’s hard to be there for them emotionally when they’ve lost everything. First because of COVID, then all their inventory’s been taken. They’re crying, sobbing. It’s heartbreaking, dude. That’s where I got turned off toward some of these groups that are doing this in the name of justice.”

I think a lot of people watching the destruction last summer had the same reaction. After the riots there were lots of local news stories interviewing people who’d lost everything. Some of that made its way into the mainstream coverage but a lot of it did not.

Because he spends a lot of time outside, late at night when the rioters are doing their thing, John isn’t a fan of downtown Portland. “I wouldn’t have too many positive things to say. It’s sad to me, man. You see people out here, cold and confused and high,” he told Willamette Week. He lives in the suburbs a few miles south where the rioters and the homeless don’t venture.

This clip is from last November. Here’s the kind of thing that keeps John busy:

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