L.A. Restaurant Supports BLM Protests, Despite Damage
Since May 25th, 2020 people have flooded streets around the country to protest the death of George Floyd in custody of the Minneapolis police. On Saturday, May 30th Los Angeles residents gathered to peacefully protest his death as well as other injustices they perceive as rooted in the most fundamental systems of our country.
The day before, L.A. County made a surprise announcement that restaurants could reopen dine-in services so long as they follow state and county protocols aimed at protecting the continued health and safety of the community. This came as a surprise to restaurant owners who expected to remain closed until July at the earliest, but many were relieved and excited nonetheless. Marc Canter, the owner of a Jewish deli that’s passed through four generations of his family and been a staple of the L.A. community for nearly nine decades, worked until three in the morning that night in preparation for the morning.
On Saturday, Canter’s Deli was back open for business in ways it hadn’t been for months, since before the county’s stay-at-home orders came down in March. Throughout the day, they received news that protestors were making their way toward the restaurant as they marched down 3rd toward Fairfax. Nonetheless they decided to stay open, despite other businesses nearby deciding to close up shop and even board their windows and doors in fear of looting. However Canter not only decided to stay open for business but even expressed support for the protest movement, placing signs in the window to show solidarity and giving out twenty-five cases of free water to everyone spending time outside in the heat that day. Police turned down the distributed water bottles but protestors accepted the gesture.
Canter also opened his restrooms to people on the street. He estimates that most of his business that day came from protestors stopping by for lunch or dinner before they continued their march through L.A. Although it’s not what he expected from his first day reopening, Canter nonetheless hoped to serve the community all day; Canter’s Deli is known for its twenty-four hour, around-the-clock service and they intended to build back up to that by keeping their dining room open until midnight that first night. However at 7:30PM the police shut them down just half an hour before the city’s imposed curfew. They detained employees for an hour before letting them go, leaving many worried that they would be arrested for being out past curfew although fortunately none were reportedly detained further. By 9:30PM, Canter’s Deli had turned off its lights and locked its doors. After all this, Marc Canter offered all of his leftover soup to the officers gathered outside, though they refused it.
Nearby businesses were vandalized that night, but despite reports about damage to the deli, Canter only described “a drop of graffiti” on his business. Even still he seems to have forgiven any damage to his business or the neighborhood, saying, Tensions have been very high since COVID-19 and a lot of people are out of work, so its hard to do peaceful demonstrations with so much going on at the same time.” He also acknowledges that most of the protestors were peaceful and only small percentage turned violent, likely just taking advantage of civil unrest rather than truly aligning with the Black Lives Matter cause.
As to why his restaurant escaped mostly unscathed, Canter attributes his luck partially to the fact that he was open and offering respite and water to protestors, whereas other businesses on the street boarded up. Despite concerns from business owners nearby and the slight damage done to the deli, Canter nevertheless reopened again Sunday morning. He saw diners trickling in throughout the day. He also got to witness the aftermath of the protests and saw something incredible: People volunteered to clean debris off the streets outside, helping clear away some of the destruction that did go on and further demonstrating how that small percentage of violence doesn’t represent the movement at large.
Throughout the day, the roads grew more populated followed by the arrival of the National Guard in their trucks. Again, Canter hoped to keep the dining room open until midnight but the city imposed another 8PM curfew and they were forced to close early again. Nonetheless Canter’s Deli is determined to serve everyone they can. All this week they’ve continued to reopen every morning, and they hope to get back to regular business operations eventually. Nonetheless they’re an outstanding example of complying with L.A. County and statewide law while supporting a movement that means so much to the people within their community.
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