WASHINGTON — The melody of church bells ringing throughout downtown, D.C. on Wednesday was interrupted by drills, saws, and hammers as businesses boarded up their windows and doors.
Block after block near the White House found storefronts covered in plywood, after the DC Department of Homeland Security sent a letter to business owners warning them that “First Amendment activities have the potential to disruptions business operations.”
Activists are planning for what they describe as an “epic 8-hour gathering” on Election Day, and business owners say they are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
“It's definitely a choice that the business owners can make,” Hope Neyer with Shut Down DC said. “We would rather they come down and join us.”
Neyer said more than 10 activist groups are planning a week of demonstrations downtown starting on Election Day. The protestors are planning a rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza at 4 p.m. on Nov. 3 with a Jumbotron, GoGo Band and several scheduled speakers.
“We have conducted health and safety trainings," Neyer said when asked if the group was prepared for violence. "We're going to be practicing assertive intervention and de-escalation. We're making sure that even though we can't prepare for everything, if the worst does happen, we've spent our time getting ready for it.”
The general manager at The Hamilton, a restaurant and music venue o 14th Street, however said he's choosing to see the best in people, and won't be boarding up heading into the election.
“I’m of the belief people are always going to be good," Grace said. "They’re going to come out and do the right thing and be respectful of business owners’ properties."
The Hamilton did board up for a day during the summer protests.
“We came through it unscathed,” he added.
Neyer said while demonstrators will plan to defend what they call an "attack on democracy," they do not intend on attacking the very community they say they are fighting to protect.
“We will be waiting for the attacks on democracy that we feel are likely to happen during those days," she said, "because it is a moral imperative for the people of this country to stand up and respond to that."