Is the city of Oakland rejecting all forms of law enforcement? Just days after the mayor of the city forewarned the citizens of a looming ICE raid (and left 840 felonious illegal immigrants on the streets), it seems some of her citizens are taking her lead.
A barista at an employee-owned coffee shop in Oakland, Calif. ignited a controversy a few weeks ago when they asked a police officer to leave the shop because of a new policy that prohibits employees from serving police officers in uniform.
As NBC Bay Area reports, a lengthy instagram post written in Spanish titled "Talk to your neighbors, not the police" explains the coffee shop's policy and provides some context for the employees' decision to turn away a uniformed police officer on Feb. 16. The post very clearly states: "We have a policy of asking police to leave for the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves."
KTVU reported that the officer - who was not named by the media - said he traveled to the coffee shop to pick up a cup of coffee and to introduce himself.
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.
In an effort to extend an olive branch to the community and assuage customers' fears relating to the police, the Oakland Police Officers Association sent the shop a letter asking to open a dialogue about its policy.
The sergeant who was turned away said he was surprised by the request, but left without incident - and without any coffee (KTVU joked that police officers are now "personae non java" at Hasta Muerte). The officer told NBC he's looking forward to speaking with the employee-owners to build a better relationship with them.
Unsurprisingly, many area residents - including Latinos and people of color - said they felt the policy didn't make sense.
"I don't know what they got against them," said Roberto Lopez.
Another resident, who wished only to be identified as "T," agreed, saying, "I think it's cold blooded. I don't understand that."
A third woman said the policy is silly: "If somebody is breaking in [to the coffee shop], who are they gonna call?"
The cafe hasn't responded to the police union's letter sent two weeks ago requesting an explanation. Cafe managers declined to comment to KTVU.
But Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale District, said she spoke to the cafe managers on Thursday and confirmed that it's still the shop's unwritten policy not to serve men and women in uniform.
"My understanding is they're not going to serve police officers," Gallo said.
"I don't agree with that, 100 percent," Gallo added. "I think we need to work together, not against each other."
The cafe opened several months ago at the corner of East 27th Street and Fruitvale Avenue.
As KTVU points out, the shop is a "worker-owned collective" with an anti-establishment bent that seeks to combat the militarization of police.
Still, one area resident said she supports the ban.
"I think that if a group of people don't feel safe with a police officer currently on duty, coming into a space, they want people in this neighborhood to be able to feel safe, coming into their space. Then that is a choice they should be able to make," said Tenaya Gunter Brown.
For now, police patrolling the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland will need to get their coffee fix at the Starbucks or Peet's Coffee Shop up the street.
One wonders if, after the courts ruled against two Orgeon bakers who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple (due to their religious beliefs), can the cops file suit against the Oakland coffee shop for refusing to serve them (due to the barista's feelings being hurt)? (of course, as we were reminded, those who 'protect and serve' are not a 'protected' class).