BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA) — Residents of a rapidly gentrifying enclave of Los Angeles tried to shut down the grand opening of a new coffee shop, saying the owner’s support of President Donald Trump’s stance on immigrants is reason alone to want him out of the neighborhood.
On Thursday, protesters held signs and screamed at patrons in front of Asher Caffe & Lounge located at 945 S. Boyle Ave. in Boyle Heights, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood that is now predominately Latino. They say they oppose the cafe and the owner over his support of Trump’s immigration policies.
“So what’s the connection? This is what I don’t understand. I’m confused — the connection between Donald Trump and good coffee,” Israeli-born businessman Asher Shalom told CBS2 News.
The kosher cafe was set to have a grand opening on July 12, the day anti-gentrification activists were met by Los Angeles Police officers blocking the entrance.
According to Eater LA, about 30 protesters associated with the group Defend Boyle Heights (DBH) showed up to speak up against Shalom, who they called “an anti-immigrant trump loving gentryfier” in a Facebook post.
“They really intensely protested and accosted all the visitors that came to our grand opening event,” said son David.
“It was very scary,” said Shalom’s daughter Yael. “There was a lot of people protesting outside wearing masks […] and they threw a significant amount of feces at our windows.”
DBH showed a screenshot of a retweet of one of Trump’s messages about his proposed Muslim ban by Asher Fabrics Concept, one of Shalom’s other companies.
Shalom told CBS2 he came to the United States 30 years ago and is now a U.S. citizen. Shalom showed CBS2 two proclamations honoring him from L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar and County Supervisor Hilda Solis, both who represent Boyle Heights.
Shalom said his businesses employ dozens of people, including immigrants.
The Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce, which had invited Shalom to join and was slated to attend the grand opening, terminated his membership days before the confrontation. In a letter from chamber president Jennifer Lahoda, she mentions a photo shared by Shalom on his Facebook page reading, “I wish Democrats would fight as hard for Americans, as they do for illegals.”
Lahoda said the views expressed “are not in line with the values and objectives of the Boyle Heights Chamber of Commerce.”
“Boyle Heights thrives because of our diverse immigrant population — The Chamber will always celebrate and support this fact. We will not support anyone who chooses to conduct themselves in a hateful manner, especially toward members of our community.”
Shalom denies he is anti-immigrant or hateful, telling CBS2, “My name is ‘Shalom,’ and I love peace.”
Despite the controversy, Asher Caffe was busy Wednesday with people who support Shalom and his right to his political opinions.
“I don’t think politics should get in the way of good food,” said one woman.
“I support him, in that I will come and give him my business,” another patron said.
Neither DBH nor the chamber of commerce wished to give their remarks on camera.