OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — A café in the East Bay is getting a lot of attention over recent news coverage of its policy of refusing to serve police officers.
Hasta Muerte Coffee on Fruitvale Avenue opened last November. In addition to serving coffee, the worker-owned café is also a radical bookstore, art gallery and community event space.
The political slant of the business is what led to the policy that has stirred some controversy.
Back on February 22, Hasta Muerte Coffee posted an image of a graphic that read “Habla Con Tus Vecinxs No Con La Policia” on their Instagram page. That translates as “Talk With Your Neighbors, Not The Police.”
The post included text that said on February 16th, an Oakland police officer entered the shop and was told “we have a policy of asking police to leave for the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves.”
View this post on Instagram
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.
The café’s position with police officers has led to some criticism, but also an outpouring of support.
“I’m part white Native American and black. Any white person that has a problem with these people being here can go back to Europe,” said Vincent Gordon, who works in Oakland.
Gordon made a special trip to Hasta Muerte to buy a cup of coffee and a t-shirt that bore the message “Deportan A La Migra” that had an illustration of ICE vans driving off of the Golden Gate Bridge.
He said he fully backs the café and its stance to refuse service to police officers.
“I think it’s good to have a safe zone for people of color,” explained Gordon. “I don’t personally feel safe around police officers. Sometimes I got into other coffee shops where there’s a bunch of them there with their big guns, you know, showing out. I don’t want to sit and drink coffee next to somebody with a big old gun on them.”
Jose Ortiz, who owns Puerto Rican restaurant La Perla on Oakland’s MacArthur Boulevard, said he believes owners should not use their businesses to promote their platforms.
“That officer, I know him. He’s a good friend of mine,” said Ortiz. “That is a slap in the face. Because at one point they’re going to need a police officer. Because when somebody puts a gun to their head and robs them, they’re gonna have to call 911.”
Outside the café is a mural that depicts a number of Bay Area residents who have died in officer-involved shootings including Oscar Grant and Alex Nieto.
The mural also has an inscription that reads, “We dedicate this mural to all the black and brown, men and women who have left us due to police violence, racism and gentrification.”
People who work at the café declined to talk on camera, saying it has been a stressful time. The Oakland Police Department and police union didn’t want to weigh in on the story either.