Apple CEO Tim Cook Weighs In on Protests as Retailers Assess Damage

Apple and other retailers are assessing damage after a weekend of protests over the killing of George Floyd sparks violence and looting.
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Apple  (AAPL) - Get Report and some of America’s large retailers were assessing damage after a weekend of protests over the killing of George Floyd sparked pockets of violence and looting in cities across the U.S.

Target  (TGT) - Get Report said late Saturday night that it would temporarily close 175 of its locations across the U.S. after its stores in Minneapolis and other locations including Los Angeles were seen being damaged and looted on live television.

Other retailers big and small - from Walmart  (WMT) - Get Report, Walgreens  (WBA) - Get Report and CVS  (CVS) - Get Report to speciality and high-end stores like Adidas, Chanel and Coach - were cleaning up on Monday after being targeted by protesters in the fourth night of demonstrations over the death of Floyd, a black man who died in police custody last week in Minneapolis.

On Friday, Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer who was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck before he died, was taken into custody and charged with third degree murder and manslaughter. 

The protests are a setback for many retailers who were in the process of reopening stores that were closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has shattered the global economy and left millions of Americans unemployed and struggling.

Apple had already shuttered about half of its 271 stores in the U.S. and had taken steps to reopen about 100 stores as of last week. 

Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a memo to the computer giant’s employees on Sunday addressing the killing of Floyd after protests across the U.S. forced Apple and other retailers to close their doors.

In the memo, Cook condemned the killing of Floyd and called for the creation of a “better, more just world for everyone.”

“We can have no society worth celebrating unless we can guarantee freedom from fear for every person who gives this country their love, labor and life,” Cook said.

Here’s the full memo:


Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.

That painful past is still present today — not only in the form of violence, but in the everyday experience of deeply rooted discrimination. We see it in our criminal justice system, in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive. While our laws have changed, the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied.

We’ve seen progress since the America I grew up in, but it is similarly true that communities of color continue to endure discrimination and trauma.

I have heard from so many of you that you feel afraid — afraid in your communities, afraid in your daily lives, and, most cruelly of all, afraid in your own skin. We can have no society worth celebrating unless we can guarantee freedom from fear for every person who gives this country their love, labor and life.

At Apple, our mission has and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better. We’ve always drawn strength from our diversity, welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world, and strived to build an Apple that is inclusive of everyone.

But together, we must do more. Today, Apple is making donations to a number of groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit committed to challenging racial injustice, ending mass incarceration, and protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable people in American society. For the month of June, and in honor of the Juneteenth holiday, we’ll also be matching two-for-one all employee donations via Benevity.

To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines. To our colleagues in the Black community — we see you. You matter, your lives matter, and you are valued here at Apple.

For all of our colleagues hurting right now, please know that you are not alone, and that we have resources to support you. It’s more important than ever to talk to one another, and to find healing in our common humanity. We also have free resources that can help, including our Employee Assistance Program and mental health resources you can learn about on the People site.

This is a moment when many people may want nothing more than a return to normalcy, or to a status quo that is only comfortable if we avert our gaze from injustice. As difficult as it may be to admit, that desire is itself a sign of privilege. George Floyd’s death is shocking and tragic proof that we must aim far higher than a “normal” future, and build one that lives up to the highest ideals of equality and justice.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.“

With every breath we take, we must commit to being that change, and to creating a better, more just world for everyone.