US businesses board up windows to protect againt election violence
Businesses and shop-owners in cities across the United States are boarding up windows as they brace for unrest and violence following the US presidential election.
The preparations come just a few months after many companies were vandalized in the violent protests that erupted after the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, at the hands of white police.
Retailers Saks 5th Avenue, Nordstrom and pharmacy chain CVS were among the biggest US firms taking precautions. Concerns the election will be contested have also weighed on financial markets.
National polls suggest a healthy lead for Democratic nominee Joe Biden over current Republican US President Donald Trump in Tuesday's election.
But Biden's lead is narrower in the handful of states that could decide the result. Legal disputes over what votes will be counted are already under way in many states.
In 2000, when a recount fight in Florida raised uncertainty about the outcome of the US election, financial markets sank by about 5%, said Brian Gardner, chief Washington policy strategist at investment bank Stifel.
Gardner is predicting a Biden victory but warned that questions about the result and any outbreak of violence could cause a steeper fall this time around.
Walmart last week said it was temporarily removing guns and ammunition from display in thousands of its stores in the United States, citing concerns of "civil unrest". A day later, however, it reversed the decision.
In recent days, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advisories, warning citizens against travel to the US in part due to anticipated violence.
"Take precautions to keep safe during the election season," it says. "Avoid areas where protests and demonstrations are occurring."
US gun sales surge amid fears of violence
Gun sales in the United States this year have reached record highs, and more first-time buyers have purchased firearms in recent months ahead of the presidential election, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.
Americans bought nearly 17 million guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, the chief economist of Small Arms Analytics, which produces widely cited estimates of US gun sales.
Gun sales in the US have a tendency to rise during periods of protest and rioting.