On the morning of Election Day, the sound of drills whirring and hammers pounding filled the air as plywood was affixed to storefront windows on Houston Street in downtown San Antonio. Veronica Sandoval watched as a wood frame went up against the store windows of Regalos Mexicanos, her Mexican folkart boutique, which sustained vandalism during the George Floyd protests in May. Sandoval stressed she could not afford any further damage to her shop.

“The last time we were hit so hard unexpectedly, and we were boarded up for quite a long time,” Sandoval said. “It hurt us financially and we’re still trying to recover.”

Cities around the United States have been warned of potential civil unrest and protests following the results of Tuesday’s election. The City of San Antonio announced in a tweet Monday it was closing Alamo Plaza to vehicular traffic and that it was adding temporary fencing that would remain in place for the rest of the week as a security precaution. The landmark shut down in the summer after George Floyd protests led to confrontations between demonstrators in front of the historic landmark.

Sandoval said she’s not sure what will happen on election night, but she wanted to be prepared.

“If it’s Biden and Trump supporters get rowdy, or vice versa … I wanted to prepare myself for it even though it’s costing me money,” she said. “We’re pretty strapped with no tourists and locals not coming down for shows because the Majestic [Theatre] is dark.”

Sandoval was lucky in May, she said, as only one window and her front door glass were broken. Her neighbor Mars Imports didn’t reopen after having its store windows broken and merchandise stolen. But replacing the few glass items that needed repair already cost her $2,500, Sandoval said. Instead of potentially paying for more repairs, she opted to spend about $500 covering her windows with plywood for protection. She decided to take the step after seeing the River Center Mall boarded up last night.

“When one does it you have to do it because you’re the one exposed, because then you stick out,” she said.

Veronica Sandoval, owner and operator of Regalos Mexicanos. Credit: Jackie Wang / San Antonio Report

Ryan Simpson was boarding up Irish-themed pub Maddy McMurphy’s across the street. Simpson works as a manager of Mad Dog Restaurants Group, a San Antonio-based company that owns four downtown restaurants and bars.

“This is a first in my knowledge, watching an election, that we have to secure everything,” he said. “That should tell you something about who we’re electing.” 

Simpson said during the May protests over George Floyd’s death, Maddy McMurphy’s just had some graffiti damage. But his restaurant group decided to take preventive measures for election night.

“We’d rather protect windows than board up broken windows,” he said.

On Tuesday morning, plywood was already covering dozens of downtown businesses and people were in the process of installing more – Whataburger on Commerce Street had wooden boards leaning against its glass windows waiting for installation. But like Sandoval’s and other businesses downtown, Maddy McMurphy’s was still open for customers on Tuesday, Simpson said. And he’s not sure when the business will remove the plywood.

“[The plywood] is kind of misleading,” he said, noting that the restaurant would keep its regular hours. “Will anybody show up? That’s my main concern.”

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.