Essam el Ghannam, owner of the Papa Palace pizza restaurant in Baltimore, Maryland, barely escaped with his life after protesters sprayed him down with lighter fluid and attempted to set him on fire, the Independent Journal Review reported Wednesday. His business, which has been a staple in the West Baltimore are for eight years, was destroyed by rioters.
“A girl in the mob yelled ‘Fire him. Fire the dirty pizza man,’” he told IJR. “Then they poured the lighter fluid on me, on my car and hit me with flames from lighters.” Ghannam, the IJR added, was watching his 12-year-old niece and was simply trying to get her to safety. Rioters tried to burn him to death when he fled. After he left, they torched his restaurant, leaving it in ashes.
Not only did they destroy his inventory, they also destroyed his ability to fill orders, including a request for pizza from an elementary school. Ghannam, however, says he intends to rebuild, but will make one important change.
“This is my life. I do not know why they do this to me. But it will not stop me,” he said defiantly. “I will reopen. I’m gonna secure my business very good. Get a weapons license and protect my shop.” Photos of the carnage left by rioters can be seen at IJR.
Ghannam is not the only victim of Monday’s riots. Reuters said 19 buildings and 144 vehicles were damaged in the riots and 20 police officers were injured.
“The looting and burning of a CVS pharmacy and general store, which has been shown on just about every newscast in the past 24 hours, as well as the destruction of other shops, will tend to deter retailers from making new investments, economists warned,” Reuters said.
Adding insult to injury, a report Wednesday said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake ordered officers to stand by and watch Monday’s riots take place. “Let them loot, it’s only property,” she reportedly said, according to a law enforcement source. When asked directly if the mayor issued the order, he said: “You are (expletive deleted) right it was.”
Rawlings-Blake, however, denied the report. “No,” she said when asked if there was an order to hold back. “But you have to understand, it’s not holding back. It’s responding appropriately.”
In a press conference, Rawlings-Blake said she gave those who wished to destroy “space” to do so. She later claimed she never made the remark. She also serves on the national board of the Democratic National Committee, MSNBC said.