By Dmitri Sans
On Saturday during a community picket of gentrifying business Blue Cat Cafe in East Austin, masked protesters covered the windows of the storefront and adjacent food truck with stickers that read “Love Cats / Hate Nazis / Boycott Blue Cat Cafe.”
The protest was called to condemn the cafe’s three year anniversary and its decision to cross the community boycott of F&F Real Estate Ventures, the capitalists who made national headlines when they violently demolished the Jumpolin piñata store without warning in 2015 and referred to the Mexican owners as “roaches.”
Since Blue Cat’s founding, the community has escalated its tactics against it. Beginning with traditional chanting and sign-holding from the sidewalk, over the past three years protesters have intensified their approach, trashing the cafe’s patio during a 2017 march commemorating the anniversary of Jumpolin’s demolition and burning a piñata of a neo-nazi Trump Supporter on the property this year.
The torched piñata and the stickers from this weekend’s protest reference the cafe’s ties to fascist and reactionary groups in Central Texas and elsewhere. Cafe owner Rebecca Gray has solicited funds from white supremacists and Trump supporters, given interviews to right wing news outlet InfoWars, and accepted help from her neo-nazi brother Paul Gray and his fascist friends to defend the property from protesters.
In June 2017, protesters clashed with Gray and his gang, with blood being spilled as one fascist was struck on the back of his head with a stick. After that skirmish, Rebecca Gray publicly distanced herself from the business, claiming to have passed ownership to other individuals, but Gray still manages the day-to-day operations of the business and sources have told Incendiary that she has been forced to move in to the building as well.
As the masked protesters applied the stickers and banged on the windows of the cafe on Saturday, another masked protester addressed the crowd with a megaphone.
“The community called for a boycott against this space, but Blue Cat Cafe came in and thought they were better than the community. They thought that they weren’t culpable, that they weren’t responsible,” he said. “We need solidarity in our times!”
Dont Rhine, a tenant activist from Los Angeles, California who had spoken at an event hosted by local anti-gentrification organization Defend Our Hoodz prior to the picket, declared his solidarity with the boycott of Blue Cat Cafe and F&F Real Estate Ventures.
“[In Los Angeles there are] anti-gentrification groups fighting against businesses like Blue Cat Cafe that move into neighborhood and become the vanguards of displacement and destruction,” Rhine said.
As she has done in the past, Gray called the police in response to the picket. The crowd marched away shortly after the police arrived, chanting slogans like “Pet your cat! Sip your tea! On the ruins of Jumpolin!” and “Austin’s not just for the rich! We won’t move another inch!”
The police, who are the violent enforcers of gentrification around the globe, have harassed and even arrested protesters of Blue Cat Cafe since it opened. Saturday was no exception, with one attendee being pulled over when they were attempting to leave the event for a missing front license plate.
The cop did not ticket the driver, the stop’s purpose having been only to intimidate.
Many critics of Defend Our Hoodz and the supporters of the community boycott have engaged in a softer form of intimidation over the past few years, claiming that resistance to gentrification is futile and that the protesters are the actual aggressors.
The consistent protests and the sharpened tactics prove that this community has not and will not be intimidated. Every year has brought a louder memorial protest for Jumpolin’s demolition in February and a more extreme picket for Blue Cat’s opening anniversary in October.
The energy of the community boycott shows no signs of stopping. The only possible ending to this fight is Blue Cat closing its doors for good.