Rochester, New York, has become the latest locus of racial unrest in the United States after the body camera footage of the death of Daniel Prude in police custody back in March was released.
Prude, a 41-year-old black man, asphyxiated as police tried to take him into protective custody following a mental health call, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. The officers involved have since been suspended, and the family has asked for them to be charged with murder. Protesters have since called for the removal of the mayor as well as the police chief.
The protests have made national news, yet the name Jesse Barksdale is still largely unknown.
Barksdale started the shop with little money and with dreams of opening a laundromat but not enough capital for the washers and dryers, having formulated the idea while on paternity leave from Men’s Wearhouse. He’d often go to the store, still a new father, straight from putting in a full day in retail, and work there, too.
In March, his sales plummeted — but he didn’t qualify for a federal Paycheck Protection Loan or unemployment. He doggedly muddled through despite the fact that, on some days, the store brought in as little as $80. At the time of the profile last month, Barksdale said he was finally turning a profit again.
Outside the store was a sign saying “Proud To Be Black Owned.”
Some of the supposedly pro-black demonstrators either didn’t see it or didn’t care:
— scott barstow (@barstow_scott) September 6, 2020
According to the Democrat and Chronicle, Barksdale woke up at 1 a.m. because of a flurry of text messages telling him there was a disturbance at the store. Arriving on the scene, he quickly sensed there was little he alone could do.
“I’m realizing I’m not the fire department,” he said. “I can’t put out the fire. I didn’t know what to do.”
Two of the U-Haul trucks were set ablaze and a third vehicle was damaged. Barksdale said the damage was over $100,000.
“I said, ‘No, this cannot be my life, this cannot be happening to me. What did I do to deserve this?’” he told Spectrum News.
“I was shocked. Whoever did this, did it to me. It’s really unfortunate.”
Three U-Haul trucks destroyed at J-Ribs on State Street.
Owner Jesse Barksdale says he was bounced out of bed to respond.
Livid over the destruction of his business. pic.twitter.com/7FKPtD6mmS
— Charles Molineaux (@WHEC_cmolineaux) September 6, 2020
Barksdale didn’t open on Sunday, having been up all night. He would open again on Monday.
“I don’t want people to feel like this is the end of Jesse,” he said.
The business owner said he was told by bystanders at the scene and others about “rumors that a white guy from out of town set the blaze.”
“Who’s to say it wasn’t Black Lives Matter people?” Barksdale said.
The unfortunate fact is that the Venn diagram overlap between those two groups is pretty significant, as anyone who’s watched the footage of the nightly disorder out of Portland, Oregon, can attest to. Whatever the case, it’s another setback.
“It’s a loss of income,” he told the Democrat and Chronicle. “It’s really unfortunate. I just don’t understand. All I do is try to treat the community nice.”
The community has helped out, buying from the store — if not just giving Barksdale money — and helping him clean up.
“So many people who haven’t been here heard, and came down,” Barksdale said. “And that’s priceless. Thank you guys.”
The issue is still that they shouldn’t have needed to come down.
If this shines a light on everything Jesse Barksdale has done to make State Street Stop N Go a success, great; there’s no better example of the American dream in action than a man who, with almost nothing in his pocket, puts together a convenience store that has several BBQ smokers in the same parking lot as U-Haul rental trucks.
I’m sure he’d rather have had the trucks back.
While we don’t know who set these trucks ablaze, this isn’t wholly different from what we’ve witnessed elsewhere during the Black Lives Matter protests and other anti-police demonstrations. Barksdale’s story may be one of the more dramatic, but he’s hardly alone.
And yet, it hasn’t gone national; he’s mostly been covered in local media and by conservative outlets. It’s enough to stick in people’s minds once they see it, however — particularly with an election coming up this fall.
The death of Daniel Prude is a tragedy, no matter what you feel about whether or not it was preventable. Scenes like this only compound it.
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