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Oakland Cafe Criticized for Policy Against Serving Police Officers

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“For the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves”

Hasta Muerte

A worker-owned coffee shop in Oakland has received a flurry of negative posts on Yelp and social media after an employee reportedly asked a uniformed police officer to leave “for the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves.” The Fruitvale shop, Hasta Muerte Coffee, provided an account of the events on Instagram, writing that the OPD officer, who was Latino, was asked to leave in accordance with a purported store policy.

“Last Friday February 16th a police (OPD) entered our shop and was told by one of our worker-owners that ‘we have a policy of asking police to leave for the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves,’” the cafe wrote. “He broadcasted to his network that he was ‘refused service’ at a local business and now the rumblings are spreading.”

The sergeant, who left the business without putting up a fight, reportedly said he would like to open a dialogue with the shop. Hasta Muerte is a cafe and bookstore run by people of color with an emphasis on providing “a warm and inclusive atmosphere for friends and neighbors to gather,” according to its website. “We believe in non-hierarchical work spaces, quality coffee, and community building.”

Under Federal Law, businesses can refuse service to any person for any reason so long as they aren’t discriminating against them for belonging to a protected class, such as race, color, religion, national origin, disability, and in some states, sexual orientation.

To explain why Hasta Muerte might have such a policy regarding police, the shop writes that “we know in our experience working on campaigns against police brutality that we are not alone saying that police presence compromises our feeling of physical & emotional safety.”

Last Friday February 16th a police (OPD) entered our shop and was told by one of our worker-owners that “we have a policy of asking police to leave for the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves.” Since then, cop supporters are trying to publicly shame us online with low reviews because this particular police visitor was Latino. He broadcasted to his network that he was “refused service” at a local business and now the rumblings are spreading. We know in our experience working on campaigns against police brutality that we are not alone saying that police presence compromises our feeling of physical & emotional safety. There are those that do not share that sentiment - be it because they have a friend or relative who is a police, because they are white or have adopted the privileges whiteness affords, because they are home- or business- owning, or whatever the particular case may be. If they want to make claims about police being part of the community, or claims that race trumps the badge & gun when it comes to police, they must accept that the burden of proof for such a claim is on them. OPDs recent attempts to enlist officers of color and its short term touting of fewer officer involved shootings does not reverse or mend its history of corruption, mismanagement, and scandal, nor a legacy of blatant repression. The facts are that poc, women, and queer police are complicit in upholding the same law and order that routinely criminalizes and terrorizes black and brown and poor folks, especially youth, trans, and houseless folks. For these reasons and so many more, we need the support of the actual community to keep this place safe, not police. Especially in an area faced by drug sales and abuse, homelessness, and toxic masculinity as we see here on this block. We want to put this out to our communities now, in case we end up facing backlash because as we know OPD, unlike the community, has tons of resources, many of which are poured into maintaining smooth public relations to uphold power. It will be no surprise if some of those resources are steered toward discrediting us for not inviting them in as part of the community.

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Since word of the incident spread, “cop supporters are trying to publicly shame us online with low reviews...” Hasta Muerte writes. The business’s Yelp page is indeed besieged with negative reviews citing recent news reports, some filled with racist and anti-immigrant slurs.

“This place is biased against police and white people,” one reviewer writes on Yelp. Another, writes that the cafe serves “very crappy coffee” and “apparently are racist against law enforcement also.”

For some, the race of the police officer — the sergeant is the president of the Latino Police Officers Association of Alameda County — is also at issue. Hasta Muerte’s stance (on Instagram, at least) appears to be that OPD’s history and overall role transcend the race of individual officers. “OPDs recent attempts to enlist officers of color and its short term touting of fewer officer involved shootings does not reverse or mend its history of corruption, mismanagement, and scandal, nor a legacy of blatant repression,” they write.

Eater has reached out for comment; stay tuned.

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