This story has been updated.

Volunteers bustled at shops along Houston Street on Sunday morning, sweeping up glass and throwing debris away.

At least five shops along that downtown street had windows broken late Saturday night when violence erupted after a protest march. By noon on Sunday, San Antonio Ranch, Regalos Mexicanos, Mar Imports, El Vaquero, and the vacant Rocket Fizz storefronts had plywood covering their storefront windows to prevent further break-ins.

Those stores were among the places hit by rioters after the march protesting the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck as he was handcuffed on the ground. 

San Antonio’s protest on Saturday swelled to the thousands. After the protesters walked peacefully from Travis Park to the San Antonio Police Department headquarters, a group gathered at Alamo Plaza, where tensions escalated.

City officials said Sunday crews were working to remove graffiti from public facilities, including those at La Villita, Hemisfair Park, and on public art along Market Street.

“I want to acknowledge and thank all of the volunteers who have come downtown this morning to help,” said City Manager Erik Walsh in a prepared statement. “Church groups, service organizations, and individuals have pitched in. City crews are also out in force, and I want to urge anyone who comes downtown to be careful, as there are several storefronts with broken glass.”

Walsh said businesses that sustained damaged should call the San Antonio Police Department’s non-emergency line to file a report.

“We are in the process of developing a comprehensive assessment of the damage from last night’s events,” stated Walsh.

Many members of the volunteer cleanup crew downtown Sunday morning were people who had participated in Saturday’s march. Volunteers brought brooms and trash bags; some dropped off snacks and water. The energy was brisk and cheerful as people chatted and helped clear away the previous night’s mess. People stepped over broken glass and poured dustbins-full of debris into garbage cans outside El Vaquero, a custom boot shop. Owner Mike Ghosi said most of his merchandise was stolen during the rioting.

Francisco Mar, who owns and operates Mar Imports on Houston Street, surveyed the cleanup process at his jewelry store Sunday morning. He and his wife, Ann, arrived at 8 a.m. to see the damage, he said. 

They were overwhelmed by the response of the community to help, said Ann Mar.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m really impressed but not shocked to see people step up to help. That is San Antonio. It would have taken us weeks to do what they did.”

The Cisneros family, along with other community members, walk through downtown cleaning up vandalized property following destruction the night before. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

The Mars were alerted by their security company Saturday night that someone was trying to break into their store. They watched over security cameras as a few men broke in and smashed windows and jewelry display cases. But not much of their merchandise was touched, Francisco said.

“I know my merch,” he said. “They didn’t even steal 10 percent of it.”

The couple feels strongly that the damage caused to their store was the work of a few people, and not indicative of the protesters as a whole. Veronica Sandoval, who owns Regalos Mexicanos next door, agreed.

“I know a lot of people who were part of the protests that started at Travis Park,” she said. “They’re smart and caring people. That part of the protest was peaceful. What happened after they left is a totally different group, with a totally different message.”

Her folk art store had a window smashed and some art pieces destroyed, she said. But for the most part, her merchandise was untouched.

Even though she’s not happy about the damage, she said she understands the anger that may have fueled the action.

“It’s the times,” she said. “People are frustrated, they feel unheard. I get it, but not everyone will. 

“If anybody is of color and anybody has any injustice against them, that lights a fire in you. We all have fires in us. These people just chose to let it out. I get it. There will be people that don’t.”

At Travis Park Church, Associate Pastor Gavin Rogers said four glass windows were discovered broken Sunday morning. Video and photos taken Saturday evening suggest the vandals shifted to the area after being dispersed from Houston Street. Church officials, who had earlier in the day assisted protesters in setting up for the rally and march, do not plan to file a complaint, Rogers said.

“As a church, sometimes you absorb the pain of other people, and we will absorb the pain that so many people in our community are experiencing,” he said. “We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement during this trying time, and we’re here to remember those who have lost their lives due to the brutality and supremacy of some in law enforcement. We don’t take [the damage] personally.” 

San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker was among the downtown volunteers Sunday morning, passing out water and helping clean up graffiti. Though Walker did not participate in Saturday’s protests, he said he wanted to walk around downtown to spread joy and positivity in the face of so much “bad.” 

“We still have the coronavirus going on,” he said. “Now you have this going on. You have people breaking into businesses. I’m not going to say the bad outweighs the good, but the bad is for sure propagated … on social media.”

Walker was proud of the march turnout on Saturday, he said.

“This is San Antonio,” he said. “This community, when they come together, they come together hard. You’ll have bad that comes with it – a lot of immature people who don’t really know the message. … It makes it a lot harder to protest.”

Asked Sunday evening about Walker’s assistance, Mayor Ron Nirenberg lauded the cleanup efforts.

“If you want to be proud to live in San Antonio, just check your Twitter feed or go to social media and look at the numbers of people who descended downtown wearing masks and carrying trash bags to help clean up our city and help the small businesses that were damaged last night by some unruly demonstrators,” he said. “It makes you proud of the people that we live in the city with. It makes you proud to be a San Antonian, and it also makes you very proud to be a Spurs fan.”

Shari Biediger contributed to this report.

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is a general assignment reporter at the San Antonio Report.