‘Why did you let us suffer?’

Scott Carpenter knows the full meaning of the word helpless. He watched the family furniture business his father started 35 years ago burn — on livestream video.

“Watching it go up in flames was so surreal. All the inventory that was there, all the memories in there, all the things that were personal, irreplaceable in there,” Carpenter said.

B&L Office Furniture ,in the 1100 block of Kenosha’s 60th Street, was one of dozens of small businesses destroyed or badly damaged in last August’s riots that tore down much of the Lake Michigan city’s Uptown Business District.

“It was really heartbreaking that someone would target you for no reason at all,” said Carpenter, manager of a store that has supported three generations of a family, employees and the Kenosha business community.

More heartbreaking is knowing that much of the madness could have been prevented.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers was slow to send in the National Guard following protests that descended into riots after a police involved shooting of a black man. Evers initially turned down federal assistance at the time from Republican President Donald Trump.

It took two days for Evers to declare a state of Emergency, even as parts of Kenosha smoldered and it was clear more violence and destruction was in the offing.

“I believe if the governor would have called the Guard out right away none of this would have happened. I believe that 100 percent,” Carpenter said.

At first, Carpenter saw some broken glass from his family storefront’s window. Unsettling to be sure but, “So far so good,” he recalled. Then his sister called. She was watching another livestream video show scenes of the office furniture store — in flames. Carpenters’ parents watched as the flames quickly spread and devoured the showroom. His mother looked on in horror.

The next morning, Carpenter saw the ruins of the family-owned business, the ruins of Uptown Kenosha. The building was a total loss. The roof was gone. Only the brick walls remained. The steel girders had sizzled and withered away in the intense heat of a fire that firefighters said soared as high as 70 feet.

It was unrecognizable, Carpenter said.

Nearly a year later, Carpenter is still trying to process the riots, the destruction, the violence and the lack of leadership that cost Kenosha more than $50 million and inestimable heartache.

“If I could talk to Gov. Evers directly I would ask him, ‘Why did you let us suffer? Why did you let thugs cripple Kenosha like they did? What did that prove? Why did you wait so long to finally send the Guard in,” Carpenter said. “You let a city go down to ruins. You should have been there for us and you weren’t.”

Failing Our Communities