Oakland café refuses to serve cops, garners community support despite controversy
After turning away an officer in uniform, Hasta Muerte Coffee, which bills itself as a POC collectively run, worker-owned coffee shop on its website, sent a letter to the Oakland Police Union reminding them of their policy to not serve police officers. This is done in the interest of protecting their own and their customers’ physical and emotional safety, the Hasta Muerte explained.
The coffee shop mentions the Oakland Police Department’s history of corruption and scandals in the letter. They regularly push for alternatives to policing, as indicated in a recent Instagram message that translates from Spanish to “talk to your neighbors, don’t talk to the police.”
The letter follows the shop’s encounter with Sgt. Robert Trevino, who was shocked after being turned away. The shop anticipated the police’s use of its PR machine to gather the public’s support and to denigrate the coffee shop’s radical stance against police intrusion in the community, and preemptively reminded the public of the force’s extremely violent history, not only just in the State of California but in America in general.
According to the East Bay Express, the community’s response to the coffee shop’s gesture of radical support for the community has been an outpouring of love and support. Lines have been out the door, and customers have sent the shop fan art with messages of appreciation and support such as: “Thank you for providing a space for the people. The ones with melanin, who face oppression, who need a space to work, relax and feel at home.”
The coffeehouse’s radical politic is not surprising even though it is a relatively new business in the neighborhood (at four months old), because it is run cooperatively and is built around resistance. It features a large mural of Oscar Grant, a pre-Black Lives Matter movement victim of police violence, and it sells books centered on social justice and art that also functions as activism.
Located in the Fruitvale district, which is where Oscar Grant was shot and killed by the police, this connection between the community and protecting it from the police makes sense. As worker-owner Matt Gereghty says, “The first step is offering coffee, community, and solidarity.. .things that are centered on holding down our various and vibrant cultural identities… What trends can history teach us about making it through the present moment and times to come? We want to add fuel to the flame of resilience and resistance.”
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.