In preparation for a planned protest, Bethesda Row merchants boarded up their businesses

UPDATED: Protest planned on Tuesday; some Bethesda Row merchants board up businesses

Black Lives Matter event will be at library at 1 p.m.

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A crew boards up Pampillonia Jewelers in Bethesda Row on Monday. Other local shops (below) also were boarded up the day before a scheduled protest, which will be at Bethesda Library at 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Photos by Matt McDonald

Some Bethesda Row merchants were boarding up their businesses this week as they anticipate a peaceful protest on Tuesday — and whatever might happen that isn’t planned.

Bethesda is the latest place scheduled to hold a protest over the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis.

A white police officer investigating a call about someone using a fake $20 bill at a store pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck on the ground for several minutes, as shown in a video shot by a bystander. The officer has been charged with murder and manslaughter.

A peaceful protest in response to Floyd’s death and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement is planned in Bethesda at 1 p.m. Tuesday in front of Bethesda Library at 7400 Arlington Road.

Montgomery County police Second District Commander Sean Gagen, whose district includes Bethesda, wrote in a message to the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce on Monday that he contacted a student organizer to discuss the protest and assure organizers that they are free to protest peacefully.

“Police officers from the Montgomery County Police Department 2nd District and I will be at the Bethesda Library throughout the protest and there will be an increased police presence throughout the Bethesda Central Business District over the course of the protest,” Gagen wrote.

Gagen added that businesses and others in the community should be aware of the increased number of officers in Bethesda’s central business district.

In an interview Monday afternoon, Gagen said that there would be a “large presence” of officers throughout the Second District for the “foreseeable future.”

“Out of an overabundance of caution, businesses are taking it upon themselves to protect their property. We plan on having an increased presence with our police officers down in the CBD (central business district) in Friendship Heights area and throughout the commercial establishments in the district,” he said. “So people should see a larger number of police cars than they normally would. But that’s us being proactive.”

There have been days of protests in Washington, D.C., and cities across the country over Floyd’s death.

In some cases, there have been confrontations between protesters and police. Some tense protests have devolved into rioting and looting.

One example was in Friendship Heights in D.C. on Sunday night, at the Maryland-D.C. line. Rioters looted several businesses, including the Mazza Gallerie shopping mall on the D.C. side. Montgomery County police lined up to keep rioters out of the county.

Gagen said on Monday that about 50 Montgomery County officers were at the scene on Sunday night. The officers included a mix of uniformed officers and others in riot gear from the department’s Special Events Response Team, or SERT.

Gagen said he didn’t know of any violent protests expected Monday evening.

John Fitzgerald, the chief of the Chevy Chase Village Police Department, near Friendship Heights, wrote in a statement Monday that he had communicated with both Montgomery County and D.C. police about planning for more possible protests.

“Rest assured that Chevy Chase Village officers will be actively on patrol and monitoring the streets along the DC line, and the County Police will be sending multiple officers into the area as evening approaches to deter and respond to any criminal activity that might arise,” he wrote.

Carolyn Weinberg, a part-owner of Quartermaine Coffee Roasters at 4817 Bethesda Ave., said in an interview Monday that her businesses would be boarded up starting at 4 p.m.

“We’ve been watching the news and what’s happening in D.C. and many of us in Bethesda don’t want our businesses damaged, so we’re taking every precaution we can,” she said.

Weinberg said her business will be open Tuesday morning, then will close when the protest starts.

“We’ll close at 1, put the boards up and hope for the best,” she said.

Weinberg said the nighttime protests that are violent are what she is worried about the most.

“Mazza Gallerie is literally seven minutes from us. Not even,” she said, referring to Sunday night’s looting in Friendship Heights.

The owner of Pampillonia Jewelers, at 7114 Bethesda Lane, also boarded up the storefront on Monday afternoon.

A representative of the store said that even though everything is in a vault, large windows could get broken if protests get violent.

“We’re just taking precautions, that’s all,” she said.

Someone who identified herself as one of the organizers of the protest wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat on Monday morning that it will be peaceful and an important way to raise awareness.

“We can no longer sit by and watch innocent black lives being taken,” she wrote. She had not responded as of Monday evening to an email seeking comment.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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