Plywood window coverings have blanketed high-end shopping areas of big U.S. cities ahead of Tuesday's election.
It's an eerie sight in a country built on the idea of a peaceful transition of power. In fact, that kind of signal is exactly why city authorities have generally advised business owners not to board up, promising stepped-up security measures.
Still, plywood panels are dotting major streets in Boston and New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Store owners are on edge from break-ins during the summer, when looters took advantage of a nationwide wave of civil unrest following the police killing of George Floyd.
In the nation's capital, some new boards went up alongside some old ones on storefronts that have remained boarded for months now, many sprouting murals, memorials and graffiti art.
A lot of boarding up in Washington, DC ahead of the election pic.twitter.com/tWyrq8EnQu— Larry Madowo (@LarryMadowo) November 1, 2020
The District of Columbia's guidance for businesses did not recommend boarding up for the election, and city authorities said they were not aware of any credible threats of violence as of late last week.
"While we intend to remain open where possible, out of an abundance of caution the windows of select stores in key cities will be boarded in anticipation of potential election related activity," luxury retailer Tiffany said in a statement to NPR.
A spokesperson for Macy's said the windows on its Herald Square store in New York City "were previously scheduled to be dark this week in setup for our annual holiday displays. Out of an abundance of caution, we are implementing additional security measures at several of our stores."
A representative of Target also cited an abundance of caution. "We are taking precautionary steps to ensure the safety of our stores," she said. "This may [include] boarding in some locations."
Walmart last week temporarily pulled guns and ammunition off shelves, prompting speculation that the retailer was also heeding possible fallout from the election. But the retailer reversed its decision and brought firearms back to sales floors on Friday.