News & Politics

'We Weren't Goin' to Sit Back and Let It Happen': Italian Bakery Owners Welcome Cleveland Looters with an Impressive Arsenal

(Facebook video screenshot)

What began as a peaceful protest in Cleveland on Saturday—over the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer— turned violent as the day progressed, prompting Mayor Frank Jackson to issue an 8 p.m. curfew and to request National Guard reinforcements to protect the city from rioters. Corbo’s, a tiny family-owned bakery in the city’s historic Playhouse Square district, took matters into their own hands, brandishing their firearms when rioters came calling.

In a video captured by Rob Rash, rioters and looters can be seen approaching Corbo’s Bakery, taunting the owners and threatening them with iron rods and a large pylon with a heavy metal base. Three men stood in the doorway of the bakery, defending their property and exercising their Second Amendment rights. A minute later the rioters were gone, having moved on to the business next door, where they shattered a massive storefront window (begins at 2:43:00):

Here’s a condensed version of the video:

Rioters later came back and shattered the bakery’s front windows. “We r here all night now because they broke r big windows,” the bakery wrote on Facebook. “Thankful my sons n husband didn’t get hurt! We r just protecting r business..we want no trouble but unfortunately they came at us w bats n weapons. God bless u guys too!” It doesn’t appear the rioters entered the bakery and there was no sign of looting at the Playhouse Square location.

Rioters destroyed and looted storefronts along a one-mile stretch of Euclid Avenue, one of Cleveland’s busiest thoroughfares.

The rioters set at least five police cars on fire, shattered windows at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, and destroyed bus shelters and decorative planters in the area.

In the video, Rash asks the men protecting Corbo’s whether or not they have insurance that would cover damage from the rioters. “I mean, really, is it worth having someone get shot? Are you shooting someone over an insured place? But why?”

“That’s not the point,” one of the armed Corbo’s workers replied.

“Well, it is the point,” Rash counters. “But what if someone accidentally got shot?”

An African American bystander defended the bakers, saying, “They just trying to defend they’re sh–.”

“You’re out here with guns!” Rash exclaims.

“I’m on my fu–ing property,” says a baker, who then went on to accuse Rash of being scared.

“I’m scared?” Rash replied. “You have a gun. You have a rifle. You guys are hiding in your doorway with guns. It’s embarrassing. You’re embarrassing yourselves. You’re hiding in here and I’m scared? Look at you behind the door.”

They later took their squabble to Rash’s Facebook page, where he wrote:

For the record, I was recording what was happening Corbo’s Bakery At Playhouse Square and the guy started gesturing at my direction and others and saying to “bring it” or something along those lines aggressively with the gun, I didnt like that and think it was necessary so I went and dealt with it how I felt best at the time and didnt wish anything bad about the business, I just felt like I was being provoked unnecessarily for exhibiting my rights. No bad blood on my end and I never wanted your business to get destroyed or messed up I just saw the way the 3 heavily armed men standing at the door egging people on as a bit much. It can all be seen in my video below, if you watch me the entire vid you can get context of what I was doing. If you succeeded in protecting your business congrats and im glad nobody was hurt in the process.

Corbo’s responded, “They were ‘egging us on’ when 4 guys come at u w bats to either hit u or break ur windows u do what u gotta do! We kept saying to go n we want no trouble..we r protecting r business!” They added, “They destroyed Heinens [grocery store] and another bakery…we weren’t goin to sit back n let it happen. Filming and getting up in r faces n provoking the rioters was wrong on so many levels.”

RELATED: Violent Rioters Breach Ohio Statehouse, Breaking Windows and Entering Building to Protest Death of George Floyd

Rash apologized for how the scene went down:

I’m sorry how things happened, in my view at the time it felt like unnecessary provocation from where I was standing, from where you were standing it felt like something else, I should have just documented and nothing more, that was my intent and then the one guy was mouthing things to me and gesturing with the gun so then I did what I did, I apologize for my part and any misunderstanding that may have happened I wasnt trying to provoke rioters, I saw the gun tend to provoke them a bit but then they would back down fast. At any rate I am glad you guys protected your stuff and that other businesses got destroyed. I really only meant to be eyes and ears for people not involve myself if you watch the rest of my vid you can see how I approach stuff in general I suppose.

Corbo’s, a family-owned bakery chain that has been in business since 1954, has been featured on the Food Network and was voted one of the city’s best bakeries. The owners did not return a request for comment, but thanked supporters on their Facebook page:

In a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon, the bakery said, “We are being threatened now! Just to be clear we never called a name or a racial slur! We didn’t threatened [sic] anyone! We just protected r business!”

There was overwhelming support for the bakery, with Facebook commenters saying:

  • God bless you and your family and keep you safe.
  • You guys did the right thing. I am proud to be a part of the community with people that stand up for themselves and protect what’s theirs, lawfully.
  • You handled it well even though people did what they could to provoke a confrontation. You also kept the guns pointed toward the ground. You stood your ground and protected your property. Kudos.
  • Cleveland is behind you guys. We’ve seen the video. We are proud of you for protecting your property and using the 2nd amendment for a good reason
  • You are right! Stay safe and protect yourself and you work.
  • This is how you #Merica! We have your back! It’s about to be a civil war and we need upstanding people like you defending what is right!
  • Keep fighting the good fight. Behind you 110 percent. God bless!
  • We love you Corbo’s!!!.. Stay safe!
  • Stay strong… I just wish more business owners did what you and your family did. You just earned a new loyal customer.

Messages of support came from as far away as Italy:

  • Go Corbo’s Go! From Italy, Naples, in you we trust!
  • Support from Italy 🇮🇹
  • Resist! We are with you. Greetings from Italy

Cleveland, like other cities across the U.S., has seen protests that have morphed into rioting and looting. The city faces a prolonged and very expensive clean-up effort, and some businesses may not recover from the devastation. Restaurants and bakeries, in particular, operate on very slim margins to begin with, and are now facing repair bills that could bankrupt them.

Rash’s flippant “you’ve got insurance” comment is an insult to hardworking business owners like the guys from Corbo’s, who deserve the right to operate their business in peace and ask for no handouts. When they realized the city was not going to protect them from the rioters, they stood their ground, which is their right under the U.S. Constitution and state laws.

Next time I’m in the Playhouse Square district I’ll definitely be stopping by Corbo’s for a slice of cassata cake.

Follow me on Twitter @pbolyard

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