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Downtown Naples business owners get extra protection during protest

Businesses in Collier County are still trying to get back on their feet after being closed due to the pandemic, and now some of them are worried about ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd.

Protesters on Monday packed Fifth Avenue in downtown Naples. While the protest was mostly peaceful, it still has business owners getting prepared for future events, including a protest that took place Tuesday evening.

Law enforcement officers were staged all around Fifth Avenue to keep protesters from the area— an extra layer of protection the business owners were grateful for.

In contrast to Monday night, downtown Naples was quiet with empty streets.

“Thank God that we have all the police here, they are keeping the situation as quiet as possible,” said Massi Tonni, general manager of La Trattoria. “We don’t have a lot of customers right now because they are worried about the situation. They did a great job just protesting without doing anything bad to all the businesses on Fifth Avenue.”

Earlier in the day, business owners along Fifth Avenue were getting ready for a repeat of Monday’s events.

“We’ve obviously had to suffer quite a dramatic decrease in our turnover due to the coronavirus and things have now started to move and get better for everybody,” said Frederick Overdijking, owner of the Fifth Avenue Coffee Company & Sixth Street Diner.

Fifth Avenue looked busier on Tuesday than it had in weeks now that people are finally able to start filling seats at local hot spots.

“We’re kind of lucky because we have some seating outside,” Overdijking said. ”I think in general people like to sit outside. With coronavirus, it’s a more safe environment.”

Still, Overdijking worried about safety and whether peaceful protests just streets away would turn violent. He said one precaution they were taking was putting their umbrellas inside.

“We understand the protests, we’re compassionate about it, what we fear is any threat of violence,” said Rick Giannasi, manager of Ocean Prime Naples.

Although protests in Naples haven’t turned violent, some restaurants have already seen reservations being canceled.

“I will stay away, unfortunately. I feel that a lot of these people are not just for the protest, some of them are looking to cause damage and I don’t want to be in the middle of it,” said Michael Sangiorgio of Naples.

“Many of our restaurants in other cities have closed because of the fear,” Giannasi said.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Anika Henanger
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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