Costs from weeks of protests take financial toll on cash-strapped cities across US

Police declare riot in Portland after protesters march on police union building

Protesters set barricades and start fires in an attempt to breach the police union building; William La Jeunesse reports.

From police injuries to financial losses from looters, the aftermath from weeks of cross-country protests is bringing some cities to their knees.

All told, the unruly demonstrations following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery could make it one of the costliest displays of civil disorder in U.S. history. In many places, the financial fallout comes as cities and states have drained their coffers trying to fight COVID-19. The end result for these cash-strapped cities could put them millions of dollars in the red and struggling for years to get out.

In Minneapolis, costs related to the protests could hit higher than $500 million. In Portland, Ore., nearly 80 nights of destruction have caused the liberal locale $23 million and counting. In Chicago, a city that's seen soaring crime rates and corruption at the highest levels, the damage done from the protests has not only hit high-end retailers but crippled hundreds of mom-and-pop stores trying to eke out a living.

Although the total financial fallout from the protests is still unknown, it will likely eclipse the Los Angeles riots in 1992, which until this years was the most expensive, costing the city $1.4 billion (adjusted for inflation), according to PCS, the insurance industry's primary source for reporting insured losses. Two days of riots following Freddie Gray's funeral in 2015 caused Baltimore $26 million in losses.

While it's true that thousands of people have peacefully protested across the United States following Floyd's death in May, there have been several demonstrations that have gotten out of hand, escalating into violence and vandalism.

Here's a look at the financial impact of demonstrations across five U.S. cities.

MINNEAPOLIS

The first peaceful protests broke out in Minneapolis following Floyd's death but then turned violent. Costs related to the protests could balloon to more than $500 million on top of $12.7 million for the National Guard deployment.

The city's Third Police Precinct, which was abandoned at the direction of Mayor Jacob Frey on May 28, was torched and will cost at least $10 million to rebuild, Hennepin County officials said. It will cost another $289,000 to replace the 911 equipment inside the station, $225,000 for cleanup operations and $5,000 for paper-shredding services, the Star Tribune reported. Another $1 million will be used to cover overtime for police, fire and public employees.

But that's just the beginning.

More than 400 businesses have been damaged with owners and insurance experts estimating rebuilding costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars range.

The city of Minneapolis has tallied at least $55 million in property damage and looting.

The city could also be on the hook for millions more if they lose the lawsuits filed against them.

One of them was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and accuses the city of abridging the constitutionally mandated freedom of the press. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of freelance journalist Jared Goyette, names the City of Minneapolis along with several law enforcement officials as defendants. The ACLU is seeking class-action status for the suit.

In late July, four Minneapolis activists also filed a lawsuit against the city and members of the police department, alleging authorities used excessive force against protesters. The civil rights lawsuit was filed by attorney Nekima Levy Armstrong, Marques Armstrong, Terry Hempfling and Rachel Clark against the City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, Lt. Robert Kroll, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington and Minnesota State Patrol Col. Matthew Langer. The suit claims the plaintiffs suffered injuries during the protests that have lingered for more than two months, including severe bruising and vocal issues from tear gas.

There have been other injuries reported as well.

At least 150 Minneapolis police officers say they are suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other injuries and have started the process of filing disability claims that could allow them to permanently leave the force but get paid as well, which could significantly increase the city's tab.

PORTLAND 

In Portland, Ore., the costs related to nearly 80 nights of protests have soared past the $23 million mark in damages and lost revenue for downtown businesses. Clashes in Oregon's largest city escalated in July when President Trump ordered thousands of federal agents to protect federal buildings from being vandalized. While the confrontations between demonstrators and law enforcement have gone down following the withdrawal of troops from the largely liberal city, the damage has already been done.

So far, there have been 550 arrests related to the protests.

On Tuesday, Mike Schmidt, Portland's newly-elected district attorney, announced his office would not be pursuing charges against those who had been arrested over non-violent incidents. Of the 550 arrests, 133 have been classified as felony referrals while 350 were violations with no bodily harm or simple misdemeanors. 

On Thursday, Oregon State Police pulled out approximately 100 troops helping both federal officers and the Portland police in responding to nightly protests. State police had committed two weeks "and that two weeks ends today," spokesman Capt Timothy Fox said.

"We're in a country that's not going to prosecute this criminal behavior,' he said.

Last month, Portland Police Deputy Chief Chris Davis blamed much of the violence on "agitator corps" hellbent on creating havoc and said "at least" 33 officers had been hurt. Many of the injuries came from items being thrown at them, including rocks, glass bottles, frozen water bottles, bricks and steel pellets from slingshots.  On Aug. 8, an Oregon State Police trooper was struck by a large rock and suffered a head injury.

The police department's $23 million figure on cost, which was last updated in early July and has likely gone up, includes $300,000 damage to public buildings, $4.8 million in property damages to businesses and $7 million in overtime for police covering protests through July 1.

CHICAGO

Chicagoans steeled themselves this week after hundreds of looters responding to social-media calls descended on the city's Magnificent Mile district following the police shooting of a man who officers said fired on them first.

The Monday morning, carnage looked like the destruction during the city's Floyd protests with broken store windows, looted shops, roads closed and an increase in police presence. By Monday afternoon, KEA Construction owner Alen Music had boarded up five businesses and said the looting has left people "frustrated and pissed off to be honest, more than scared."

Since the start of the protests, more than 200 stores have been impacted in Chicago's central business district that has resulted in "millions" of dollars worth of damage, said Adam Skaf, a spokesman for the Magnificent Mile Association.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported the Floyd protests caused more than $20 million in property damage.

A survey of the aftermath found 40 Cook County businesses sustained major damage and uninsured losses, while another 95 businesses sustained minor damage, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the state Emergency Management Agency.

Not only did businesses bear the brunt of out-of-control demonstrators, but police officers also did, too.

So far, 31 law enforcement officials have been injured — 13 this week and 18 others in July.

NEW YORK CITY

The financial fallout in New York City, which was already reeling from massive costs related to COVID-19, has been brutal. Not only have more than 300 officers been injured, but the demonstrations have also cost the city $115 million, plus another $179 million more in overtime.

According to the New York Police Department, from May 28 to July 22, 303 cop cars have been vandalized during the protests. The vehicles have been tagged with graffiti, pelted with rocks and in some cases set on fire. Seven vehicles remain out of service while 14 are at a total loss due to arson and have been condemned. The cost of damages is estimated to be $996,700, according to the NYPD.

"Enough is enough," tweeted the Lieutenants Benevolent Association police union. "The #silentmajority must speak out against this destruction!"

The nearly $1 million tab taxpayers will have to pick up for the vehicles is just a drop in the bucket.

The city's Independent Budget Office reported overtime for the first two weeks of the Floyd protests costing $115 million in overtime. Overtime for the same period in 2019 was $61.5 million. This year's June figures did not include costs associated with Puerto Rican Day, Israeli Day or Gay Pride celebrations in the city.

There's also the cost of NYPD misconduct, which was a motivating factor behind some of the recent protests. Last year, NYC shelled out $68.7 million in settlements and other fines associated with police misconduct, according to the New York City law department.  This year, the department has already paid more than $3 million in police misconduct cases.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

In the nation's capital, costs from the protests have risen past $14.5 million. In June, President Trump ordered the deployment of thousands of National Guard troops — 1,200 from D.C. and 3,900 from other states – in response to the demonstrations. The deployment, which began on June 1, lasted a week. On May 31, protests flared up in the district and fires broke out near the White House on May 31. U.S. officials told Reuters that at its peak, the cost came to $2.6 million per day.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser demanded Trump withdraw troops while Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., called Trump's use of National Guard troops "an affront to our Constitution."

"The administration's use of taxpayer dollars to deploy National Guard troops and transfer active-duty military — and their refusal to provide details on these costs — is unacceptable," Van Hollen said.

The DCPD said there were 32 injury reports filed between June 30, 2020, and Aug. 4, 2020, which will likely bump up the financial damage related to the protests.

On Friday, DC police said they arrested 41 people during Thursday night's protests in Adams Morgan on charges of felony rioting and assault on officers.

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