The footage opens on a man dressed in white whipping a long stick like a baseball bat to a window of a building in downtown Greensboro owned by developer Eric Robert. A camera mounted to the corner of the building catches everything.
The man smashes the first window, steps towards the top of the frame, then returns to vigorously administer four more heavy thwacks to the window before couple more pokes at another on that side of the building.
The man is very clear of purpose, moving on after these specific windows had been bashed.
The footage, which is all over social media including the Triad City Beat Facebook page, is amazing.
But not as amazing as the timing.
Robert put the cameras up on Friday after three vandalism incidents at his recently renovated property on the corner of Lewis and South Elm streets this summer. They proved their worth in hours.
More troubling is the time stamp on the footage: about 10:30 p.m.
Here is where Robert, who has been a critic of the various organizations and individuals who influence downtown Greensboro’s growth, has a beef that should finally get everyone’s attention.
Because it looks like this guy was able to walk to one of the city’s busiest nighttime corners with a giant stick in his hand, this during prime nightlife hours and with the remnants of a First Friday gallery hop still threading the streets. He was able to take eight whacks at two picture windows in three separate at-bats, and then disappear down Lewis Street with the only evidence being Robert’s footage and the shattered glass on the sidewalk.
Noteworthy, too, is that the neighborhood has been subject to street crime since June, with a couple of reported auto break-ins, two larcenies and three separate reports of vandalism committed on this very building.
Robert sometimes gets criticized for seeing conspiracies in downtown politics and pointing out when services and benefits are unequally applied. His controversial relationships with Downtown Greensboro Inc. and city council have pushed him to outsider status even as he has refurbished two derelict properties in the district — three, if you include the former Lotus Lounge.
But he’s right to feel persecuted when his building seems to be a target, in a part of town where nobody should be able to walk around with a big stick smashing windows, especially that early on a First Friday.
And it’s impossible to criticize him for putting boards on his windows. Because if this can happen at 10:30 on a Friday night in downtown Greensboro, appearances are the least of our problems.