DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The second night of protests in Dayton was much quieter and calmer than Saturday night, and one group was treated to free water and food from Lily’s Bistro.
It came at the same time Lily’s staff boarded up their storefront window that was shattered during Saturday night’s protests.
Restaurant owner, Emily Mendenhall, said last Tuesday was the first day Lily’s Bistro was back open for inside dining since the coronavirus closures. They closed Saturday evening when events began to escalate and remained closed on Sunday after their storefront was damaged.
But instead of being upset about their shattered window, Mendenhall said they’re making this mess their message.
While tensions were still high Sunday evening between protesters and police, Lily’s Bistro served as a rest stop, and grilled up hamburgers and hot dogs to pass out for free.
“I used to organize protests in Louisiana and I know you’ve got to stay hydrated, you’ve got to eat food,” said Mendenhall. “We tried to share water with the police officers too, everyone has to stay hydrated.”
Before the protesters stopped by, Mendenhall and her staff were busy boarding up a window that was shattered in Saturday night’s protests, but Mendenhall said she’s not upset.
“It doesn’t matter to me who threw the rock that broke the window, it could have been a protester, could have been a counter protester,” said Mendenhall. “If it was a protester, I totally understand. People are angry. I think people have a right to be angry and for me, it’s just a window. Other people are dying.”
She said she posted about the broken window on Facebook Saturday night. Within a few hours, she said enough money had been donated to fund a new window and much more. She said they used the leftover money to pay staff whose shifts were canceled and buy the food they handed out to protesters.
It was a gesture not lost on the many protesters who stopped by.
“The fact that they’re still out here today giving back after you guys just tried to damage their business that they built from the ground up, that’s love,” said one protester, Erionna Bush. “And that love doesn’t have a color on it. Period.”
But Emily said she feels she’s just doing her part.
“I want to stand beside people and I want to help them be heard and if I can utilize the platform of my business to help reach some of the politicians, reach some of the people who can affect change, I’m going to do that,” said Mendenhall.
On the boarded up windows, Mendenhall got local mural artist, Tiffany Clark, to write names of black people who had been killed, along with other messages touting unity and “Black Lives Matter.”
Mendenhall said it would probably be two weeks before the specially fitted glass would be reinstalled so she wanted passersby to know while she doesn’t understand what black people go through, she does stand with them.
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