On April 21 Black Lives Matter (BLM) held a “peaceful” protest in Brooklyn, NY. While marching, the demonstrators stopped at a restaurant called Maya Taqueria, where some of those who participated began to scream at patrons enjoying dinner outside. “Stay the f--ck out of New York," they yelled. Soon thereafter, a leader of the protest stood on a table and conducted an orchestra of various chants that included phrases such as “we do not want you here…We don’t want your f--ing money…We don’t want your f--ing taqueria, owned by f--ing white men.”
Earlier in April, protestors interrupted diners at the Manhattan restaurant, Balthazar. They pounded on – and broke – some of the establishment’s windows and caused other property damage. That same evening, a Japanese restaurant called Omen Azen also sustained property damage.
These supposed “peaceful” protesting tactics – lambasting diners on megaphones, confronting restaurant employees, and in some instances damaging eateries property - have become ubiquitous in cities across America. This author has been a direct witness three times in a short time span.
We Don’t Want You Here
At TQC we support peaceful protests and encourage people to exercise their constitutional right to organize, speak up, fight for equal justice under the law, and to initiate discussions with the objective of facilitating positive change. Making people feel uncomfortable is an effective tool to do just that, and we support that tactic. Threatening people and or causing property damage crosses a line which is not commensurate with a peaceful protest; we reject those actions.
The protest at Maya Taqueria (and various other eateries) was not peaceful. It was divisive, harmful to some of the very individuals the protesters claim they are advocating for, could have easily turned violent, and was quite frankly, racist.
It is imperative that people from diverse backgrounds converse, listen, learn, and progress. That becomes more challenging when a backwards “progressive” leading a protest on a megaphone tells a hard-working business owner that happens to be white that “we do not want you here. We don’t want your f--ing taqueria, owned by f--ing white men.”
For far too long people of color fought racist real estate developers and homeowners’ associations who either implicitly (or explicitly) said, “we don’t want you here.” People of color fought racist school boards who said, “we don’t want your kids here.” People of color fought banks who “didn’t want their f--King money” and refused to extend them credit or when they did, charged usurious rates of interest. Those are but a few of the many examples black and brown Americans have fought courageously to have laws – and attitudes – changed to help ensure those injustices ceased and will not transpire again. That said, it was particularly disheartening to hear a BLM protest leader arguing for many of the discriminatory wrongs that American civil rights heroes fought so long and hard to remedy.
Please Don’t Go
After what transpired last week, creative entrepreneurs like Daniel Nasser, the founder of Maya Taqueria, will probably think twice about opening a new restaurant in Brooklyn. We certainly hope he does not heed to the advice of those misguided activists and shutter his existing location. That would be a shame.
Maya Taqueria is not only a popular place for good eats, but more importantly a stable employer and local taxpayer. The servers, busboys, dishwashers, cooks, and other staff at Maya Taqueria and other restaurants like it depend on their employers’ doors remaining open – and a willingness of customers to walk through those doors - for a steady paycheck to support their families. Furthermore, the tax revenue derived from restaurateur’s businesses helps fund various social services upon which marginalized members of the community depend on.
Let us be clear, a small number of inappropriate protestors are not indicative of most BLM supporters who are truly peaceful. As we have maintained in previous posts, BLM has been instrumental in bringing much needed attention to systemic racism, a non-colorblind criminal justice system, police bias, and much more, to a broad swath of Americans and global citizens. They deserve credit for that.
However, the individuals responsible for the despicable conduct in Brooklyn – and any other unlawful protest - must be held accountable and called out for their actions. Doing so would provide all modern social justice movements and the majority of lawful activists that stand behind them, more credibility and momentum.