"We Don't Serve Cops"
When workers refuse to serve or cater to police, they make their spaces and communities safer.
On July 4th, 2019 a barista at a Tempe, Arizona Starbucks approached six uniformed police officers and told them that they were making one of the patrons uncomfortable. They needed either to move away from the customer’s line of site, or to leave the premises altogether. The cops left -- and, in the coming days, conservative commentators and politicians alike called for a boycott of the establishment. On Twitter, hand-wringing and outrage competed with memes and praise for the barista.
This isn’t the first time baristas, hostesses, cashiers, or other workers have given police the boot. In the wake of racist extra-judicial killings of black men by the police, and in the context of draconian anti-immigration policies under Trump, vigilant and conscientious workers have refused service to law enforcement agents and officers across the country. These acts -- often taken by an individual in the spur of the moment, but sometimes a matter of official policy -- make public spaces safer for all of us who may come under the hammer of the Law. We are inspired by these small gestures and would love to see them spread, eventually encompassing entire chains, districts, and continents, leaving law enforcement officers with no choice but to retire and to reflect on the violence they have wrought on working class communities everywhere.
In that spirit, we have collected an incomplete timeline of refusals from the last five years.
In 2015, protests centered in Ferguson, Missouri following the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown at the hands of police, were still ongoing. Those protests compounded with protests against the killing of Eric Garner by the NYPD, creating a veritable nationwide movement against police brutality and anti-black racism in the United States. In April of 2015, large scale riots and unrest exploded onto the streets of Baltimore, Maryland after Freddie Gray was killed by multiple Baltimore Police officers. In this context, at the twilight of the Obama presidency, workers across the country began refusing to serve officers with remarkable frequency.
Waco, Texas: Norman Tattoo
Following the May 2015 shootout between bikers and police officers in Waco, Texas, that left nine bikers dead and eighteen wounded, a local tattoo shop, Norman, banned police officers completely. Placing a sign on their door, the tattoo shop took a clear stance against police brutality, and a commitment to the safety of their clients and community. Shop owner Frank Robinson (now deceased) remarks, “The fact that police are admittedly in possession of video of the entire event, yet have not released it, is more than a little frightening. They seem to bring chaos and intimidation everywhere they go.”
Portland, Oregon: Red & Black Cafe
On June 4th, 2015, a worker-owner of the cooperatively run Red & Black Cafe told a police officer that his presence violated their “safe spaces” policy, and that he needed to leave. This is not the first time the Red & Black showed officers the door. In 2010, a similar incident prompted both threats against the business and a surge of loyal clientele. Unfortunately, the Red & Black Cafe no longer exists, but it provides a good example for all of us.
Bowling Green, Kentucky: Chuck E. Cheese’s
On August 24, 2015, an armed and uniformed police officer was denied entry and service at a Chuck E. Cheese’s on the grounds that firearms are not allowed on the premises. In response to the public backlash, the Public Relations Chair at Chuck E. Cheese’s corporate office clarified that “[their] firearms policy does not apply to officers in uniform. We do have a firearms policy for civilians and off-duty non-uniformed officers, but officers in uniform are always welcome to bring in their firearms.” Way to go to the front desk person for turning away the cop, and quick thinking to blame it on corporate policy!
Pembroke Pines, Florida: Arby’s
On September 2, 2015, a police officer placed their order at the drive-through of an Arby’s fast food restaurant. When the officer pulled up to pay, the worker took her credit card and walked out of view. A few minutes later, the manager returned and notified the officer the worker didn’t want to serve her “because she is a police officer.” He then told her that, of course, “he has the right to refuse service.” The officer took her food and walked inside of the restaurant in order to obtain a refund. The manager provided his contact information in case the officer’s superiors wanted to talk, but the worker managed to withhold his information. Shout out to the manager for standing up for his employee without question!
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Starbucks
On September 13, 2015, a barista at the Chestnut Street Starbucks in Philadelphia refused to tell a uniformed police sergeant the code to the bathroom unless he spent money at the store. While we are against policies that require purchase to access water or restrooms, we are pleased to imagine a cop begging for access to resources he denies others in the course of his work.
Lewisville, Texas: Whataburger
On September 16, two police officers were turned away from a Whataburger restaurant, when the manager told them they don’t serve cops with a smile on his face. The officers stormed out and returned for his name to file a complaint. When news arrived to report on the incident, customers defended the manager, saying that he was clearly playing around. Regardless, Whataburger fired him. A GoFundMe was set up to raise money for the 50 year old father. We are sorry that Whataburger did the wrong thing by firing this man, but our hearts are warmed by the community response. We are also grateful to the local Fox4News staff for their favorable reporting on the incident -- a rarity in these cases.
West Hartford, Connecticut: Dunkin’ Donuts
On October 3, 2015 a barista at West Hartford’s Dunkin’ Donutes stood in front of a uniformed police officer and a room full of customers and yelled, “he didn’t get the message: we don’t serve police!” The cop immediately left. The manager made the barista follow him outside to apologize, and then to apologize to the customers inside. Happily, he kept his job and seemed to set a precedent that spread to other locations!
Providence, Rhode Island: Dunkin’ Donuts
On October 5, just two days after the widely-publicized event in West Hartford, a barista at a Providence Dunkin’ Donuts wrote “#blacklivesmatter” on the coffee cup of a uniformed police officer. According to reports, the employees were immediately cold and rude to the cop when he first walked in, but he was served anyway. The police union had the nerve to publish a vitriolic message, ending with the racist dog whistle “ALL LIVES MATTER.” For their part, Dunkin’ Donuts simply “counseled the employee” about her behavior. Perhaps they advised her to refuse them service altogether next time? Good job, team!
Clemson, SC: Krispy Kreme
When a uniformed officer walked into a Krispy Kreme donut shop in May 2016, the cashier refused to take his order. When the officer asked why, another worker stepped in to quickly take the order and send the cop on his way.
Phenix City, Alabama: Taco Bell
In June 2016, protests exploded in Minneapolis, Atlanta and elsewhere after police officers murdered Philando Castille. Less than a month later, on July 18, 2016, a cashier at a Taco Bell in Phenix City, Alabama told police officers they needed to leave the store. “We don’t serve police here.”
Miramar, Florida: Sunoco
Also on July 18, just one day after three police officers were ambushed in Louisiana, and while the country still mourned the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, a clerk at a Sunoco gas station in south Florida refused to serve a uniformed cop. According to the cop, the clerk asked him, “why was my friend arrested?” The officer eventually said to the clerk, “I have to pay for this Gatorade,” to which the clerk responded “I’m not serving you...you know why...I don’t have to. Get out of my way so I can attend to customers.” The cop, shocked, left the gas station. The clerk refused to give his name or his boss’s name to the police officer.
Alexandria, Virginia: Noodles & Company
On July 28, 2016, two police officers walked into a Noodles & Company restaurant, and sat down to dine in. Immediately, the line cook came out front and told the cashier “you better pull me off the line, because I’m not cooking for [them].” The two employees laughed and the cops left the establishment. Sadly, the two workers were fired -- a rather uncommon occurrence in these circumstances, it seems.
Brenham, Texas: McDonald’s
That same day, in Brenham, Texas, a McDonald’s worker refused to serve a police officer and his entire family. Power move! Sadly, she was also fired. We are positive she doesn’t miss the job.
Louisville, Kentucky: Taco Bell
In August 2016, five uniformed officers were turned away at a Taco Bell in Louisville. The cashier simply asserted her rights to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Thank you!
Sedro-Woolley, Washington: Lucky Teriyaki
On August 14, 2016, a local restaurant 70 miles from Seattle told police officers to leave the restaurant, and to tell other law enforcement they were no longer welcome at the establishment because it was making customers uncomfortable. After being flooded by death threats, the owner clarified that it was a simple breakdown in communication, as English is their second language. In small towns especially, it can be difficult for immigrants, or anyone for that matter, to defend their communities from the sheriff's department and others willing to stand with them extralegally. Sending much love to Lucky Teriyaki.
Atlanta, Georgia: EAV Barbell Club
In August 2017, as the country was still processing the election of Donald Trump and developing community-based responses to an uptick in far-right violence, the East Atlanta Village Barbell Club placed signs on their door: “No police or active-duty military allowed;” “This is a cop-free zone.” The gym, which specialized in powerlifting and olympic lifting, had become a small hub for antiracist organizing. The owner of the gym clarified to local news that military veterans are welcome at the gym -- just not soldiers engaged in active service.
Brooklyn, New York City: Dunkin’ Donuts
On August 3, 2017, two police officers entered a Brooklyn Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins and did not receive service. The two cops waited for several minutes at the pick-up counter, while a line of more intelligent people placed their orders at the counter designated for placing orders. The cashier did not advise the officers on how to properly handle the situation, and the cops left empty handed. Later, they claimed that the cashier declared “we don’t serve police,” which would be cool but which video evidence clearly disproves. In any case, local police began a boycott of the location, making it much safer overall, we are sure.
Denison, Texas: Whataburger
On October 14, 2017, a worker at a Whataburger fast food restaurant refused to serve uniformed police officers. Specifically, she began screaming and cursing at them: they had arrested her boyfriend a few weeks prior, and he was beaten up before making it to the police station. The worker was fired but was unphased. On social media, she proudly proclaimed that she was unapologetic and that she “will continue refusing service to cops.”
Detroit, Michigan: Rocky’s Road Brew
In September 2018, a food truck company banned police officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents from their business. The policy caused a local scandal, to which the owner responded, "The majority of my neighbors, customers, and myself do not feel safe around law enforcement agents (ICE, DPD, Homeland Security, etc). I have asked friends from the National Lawyers Guild and I am well within my rights to refuse service to law enforcement agents. This is for the safety of my neighbors and customers (who have all become friends) and myself. #blacklivesmatter #refugeeswelcome #chingalamigra”. What more is there to say? Go eat at this place!
Oakland, California: Hasta Muerte Coffee
On February 16, 2018, a coffee shop and radical bookstore, Hasta Muerte, refused service to a uniformed police officer and released a statement about it online. The coffee shop was thrust into local fame, and lines of customers gathered outside the door for weeks following the incident. On March 3rd, right wing activists and far-right agitators from the Proud Boys gathered outside of the shop to harass customers. On March 18th, Proud Boys and their friends gathered again, but were encircled by hundreds of residents from the area who forced them away from the store. Oakland Police escorted the right-wingers to safety across the street, but the community response was tremendous. If you live near Fruitvale, stop by Hasta Muerte.
A few weeks ago...
Tempe, Arizona: Starbucks
And finally, on July 8 of this year, a barista at a Tempe Starbucks asked six cops to leave the premises because they were making customers uncomfortable.
You always have the right to refuse service to law enforcement. In light of upcoming raids and roundups of migrants by ICE, refusing to host law enforcement just may save someone’s life.
To verify whether or not an ICE raid is taking place near you, or for other immigration-related questions: go here.
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