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20-21 September, Charlotte, North Carolina September 28, 2016
On the evenings of 20-21 September in Charlotte, North Carolina, political violence in the form of rioting, vandalism, intimidation, and assault impacted at least seven hotels in the city’s downtown business district – mostly the Trade and College streets area – reports The Charlotte Observer.
The damage was significant enough for the Observer to say, “Uptown hotels spent Thursday repairing damage and reassuring guests following a violent night of protesting that cast their properties in an international spotlight.”
The political violence resulted from a Black Lives Matter style protests over the 20 September police shooting of N.C. resident Keith Lamont Scott. Police assert Mr. Scott had a firearm on his person and would not relinquish it when they sought to detain him. This resulted resulted in the shooting, say authorities. Mr. Scott’s family insisted he had no firearm and say police murdered him in cold blood. The controversy triggered protests that began as peaceful in downtown Charlotte at Marshall Park at 7:00 pm on 20 September but turned violent as the evening progressed, reports ABC 12NewsNow.
The political violence broadly consisted of protesters – Forbes estimates about 800 in number – and police anti-riot forces clashing on the streets amidst shops, restaurants, office buildings, and hotels. Various TV news outlets showed rioters attacking police, the press, random civilians, and each other. 12 NewsNow says that rioters infiltrated the EpiCentre, an upscale plaza of shopping, dining, and entertainment venues, and threw furniture from its upper levels.
One rioter, allegedly a gang member, murdered another with a gunshot to the head just outside the Omni, and another rioter was shot later on. Police fired tear gas, anti-riot pellets, and flash bang type grenades. They also made multitudes of arrests. Each side pushed the other back for several hours both nights. Incensed protesters who were not part of the violence made exceedingly passionate arguments against the police in general.
The following hotels experienced disruptions and/or damage:
- The Ritz-Carlton Charlotte: the riot largely unfolded in front of the hotel; a conference group checked out for an alternate location; protesters banged on the hotel windows, which intimidated patrons and staff; a lobby or restaurant window was reportedly smashed with a chair (unconfirmed); outside the hotel rioters damaged light fixtures, destroyed landscaping, and lightly damaged two cars in the hotel driveway by jumping on top of them.
- The Hampton Inn Uptown: the hotel’s windows were smashed.
- Hyatt House Hotel: rioters attempted to break the hotel’s windows but stopped when police launched tear gas at them; eventually rioters broke most of the large windows along the front of the hotel with bricks and by kicking the glass; glass that was not broken was spray painted; rioters seemingly made it into the hotel entrance/foyer because two hotel employees were assaulted – a valet and a front desk staffer – reports local news outlet CBS WNCN and CNN.
- Embassy Suites: the hotel’s windows were damaged where hotel construction was ongoing.
There is no word yet from Charlotte officials on the cost of the riot damage. But clean up of a single smashed hotel window – including debris removal, installation of plywood to seal the removed window, and window replacement – can cost between at least $5,000 – $10,000. Other types of vandalism described above can cost many thousands of dollars to clean up, temporarily repair, and then fully repair and/or replace. Lost business of patrons and conferences is also a cost factor here, as is augmenting staff during crises. Property/casualty insurance will surely come into play as well. All of these factors could push the riot repair bill just for hotels into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The total damage to the city’s downtown area might reach the low millions.
The main takeaway for hotels from the Charlotte riots is that highly contentious political issues that spur violent protests and riots can quickly spill over onto hotels. Hotels present big, lit up soft targets for angry mobs bent on vandalism and/or worse. Additionally, to some rioters, especially if socio-economic issues are at stake, hotels might represent a focal point of anger because they are perceived as havens for the rich and “wealthy business class.” In these cases, hotels can be magnets for violence.
Accordingly, hotel chains, groups, and franchisers should increase their intelligence capabilities to do more than just monitor for theft, terrorism, and high order criminal violence. They should also monitor for political issues that could materialize quickly and spin out of control. The Charlotte riots happened mere hours after the triggering incident, leaving little time for crisis preparation.
Sources and further reading:
“Wichita cop an eyewitness to Charlotte protests,” The Wichita Eagle, 23 September 2016.
“Businesses pick up the pieces after Charlotte riots,” WCNC, 22 September 2016.
“Vandals hit NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte protests, exhibits unscathed,” The Charlotte Observer, 22 September 2016.
“Charlotte leaders urge ‘business as usual,’ but some workers stay home,” The Charlotte Observer, 22 September 2016.
“Cleaning up: Uptown hotel, office building managers on damage, security plans,” Charlotte Business Journal, 22 September 2016.
“Uptown hotels regroup after a night of violence,” The Charlotte Observer, 22 September 2016.
“Charlotte riot: State of emergency declared after protester shot in second night of clashes over North Carolina police shooting,” The Telegraph, 22 September 2016.
“National Guard arrives in Charlotte after McCrory issues State of Emergency,” ABC 12NewsNow, 22 September 2016.
“How Did The Ritz Carlton Hotel Protect Their Guests Last Night During The Charlotte Riots,” Forbes, 22 September 2016.
“State of emergency declared, National Guard arrives in Charlotte following protests,” CBS WNCN, 21 September 2016.
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