Angie Malave credits the grace of God and good Samaritans for saving her and her husband from possible injuries or having their shops destroyed during a protest downtown Saturday night.
Malave is the owner of The Wine Cafe and The Coffee Shop, which is catty-cornered to the Market House. That historic structure was set on fire by protesters, who then walked down Hay Street hurling brick pavers into storefront windows.
Malave’s shops were among the first targeted.
The protest was among hundreds across the country in response to the death of George Floyd while in custody of a Minneapolis police officer last week.
After setting fire to the Market House on Saturday night, protesters hurled two brick pavers into the building where Malave leases space. She said one protester was about to hurl another paver through the glass door of her wine shop that she was standing behind, but he stopped his forward arm motion when she screamed.
She then yelled to people in front of her store not to hurt her husband, who was standing outside.
Then, a group of good Samaritans formed a line outside the store to deter protesters from doing any more damage, she said.
"They made a line to stop them from throwing more pavers. I didn’t know their names."
In the meantime, she got down on her knees inside the wine shop to pray. The shop had no power.
She said she yelled outside to the strangers who were lined across both businesses and asked what was going on.
"I was fearing for my husband, and they looked inside and said, ‘You are going to be fine. You are going to be fine,’" Malave said.
Malave said there was a presence of God that night.
"Everything was so tense," she said. "There was something that I felt. We were being protected by God, definitely. What are the chances in a situation like this that we have people shielding us?"
Mayor Mitch Colvin said Malave’s story illustrates the humanity of the people of Fayetteville.
"That shows who we are as a city," Colvin said. "I know there were people who had bad intentions who came here to take advantage of this situation. But then the true Fayetteville showed itself in that example there. That’s Fayetteville. That’s who we are."
Colvin said when he stopped by the protest at the Market House early Saturday afternoon, the overwhelming number of people were protesting peacefully.
"They came down to make a point about systemic and institutional change," he said.
Malave said she was perplexed that police did not respond for several hours after the fire was set, even though an officer came by twice Saturday afternoon urging her to close early because of a threat to burn down the Market House.
City and police officials said they didn’t want to escalate the protests by responding too forcefully or too soon and provoking protesters, and they point out that no police officers or shop owners were hurt Saturday. That hasn’t been the case in other protests across the country, they said.
Former Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne, who lives downtown, is among the business owners and residents who were critical of the police response on Saturday night, saying officers intentionally were not responding to 911 calls.
"Nobody had told us — the downtown people — that they weren’t going to come in there (to respond)," Chavonne said Monday. "(Police) bordered up two or three blocks from downtown, and they didn’t come inside that."
He said Tuesday that city officials did not handle the situation well on Saturday night and officials know it, but he added that the Police Department did a much better job handling a protest Monday night on Murchison Road.
During that march from Fayetteville State University to downtown, protesters faced a line of officers wearing riot gear. Just after 8 p.m., the leader of the rally called for many of the protesters — still close to 300 strong after some had departed — to kneel.
"I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe," they chanted.
And then cheers and applause erupted among the activists as the police officers followed suit, taking a knee in solidarity.
Colvin said Tuesday the curfew was still in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. overnight.
He said he is pleased with how the peaceful protest went Monday night.
"I think it went extremely well — the display of unity the officers had with the peaceful protesters. And I was pleased to hear there were no incidents after 8 p.m. when the curfew came," he said.
Staff writer John Henderson can be reached at email@example.com or at 910-486-3596.