Hasta Muerte Coffee, a self-described “POC, worker-owned coffee shop & radical bookstore” in Oakland, California, is under fire for refusing to serve uniformed police officers.
The controversy began after the coffee shop refused to serve a Latino police sergeant, citing its policy of “asking police to leave for the physical and emotional safety of our customers and ourselves.”
According to the NY Daily News, the police union sent a letter to the café stating that the sergeant was refused service by the staff. The letter says that the refusal was both a surprise and concern for the Oakland police officers.
Hasta Muerte Coffee made it a point to define that their policy is to refuse service to uniformed policemen, and that their actions had nothing to do with the cop’s racial background.
“We know in our experience working on campaigns against police brutality that we are not alone saying that police presence compromises our feelings of physical & emotional safety,” Hasta Muerte Coffee said on its Instagram page.
The statement said that police who are POC, women or queer are still complicit in upholding the same law and order that routinely criminalizes and terrorizes black, brown and poor people, 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,” the statement read.
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.
Some citizens don’t see Hasta Muerte Coffee’s policy as a good thing. Critics have said that they do not understand what the café has against police officers and have called the coffee-shop owners cold blooded.
The New York Post reported that the sergeant in question told NBC Bay Area that he was hoping to “build a better relationship” with the shop and hopes to speak with the employees.
Oakland City Council Member Noel Gallo said he did not agree with the policy but hoped to open a dialogue with the café.
“My understanding is they’re not going to serve police officers,” Gallo said. “I don’t agree with that, 100 percent. I think we need to work together, not against each other.”
It has been reported that the Oakland Police Officers Association asked the café to “open a dialogue about its policy.”
According to CNN, the Oakland Police Department tweeted on Thursday that it “respects business owners right to serve anyone they choose” and that police officials, along with other community members, are “reaching out to the business to have constructive dialogue in our efforts to unite our community.”