After accusations against a veteran’s cafe circulated on social media, saying the restaurant was racist and had discriminated against a group, vandals destroyed the eatery, causing about $10,000 in damage. However, they made one big mistake.
Michael Patterson, an Iraq War veteran who works as a waiter at his family-owned cafe in Anchorage, Alaska, found his parent’s restaurant being inundated with nonstop calls after a Facebook post called out the establishment. As Facebook users quickly circulated a report of the Paris Bakery and Cafe’s alleged racism, it went viral. Before long, people were calling the cafe to tell the restaurant employees that the establishment was racist and discriminatory.
A Facebook user named Anna Satler shared the accusatory post, which reportedly relayed a friend’s message, saying the cafe staff discriminated against and was racist toward Alaska Natives. “From my friend who experienced this discrimination today,” the post began before instructing all of Alaska not to eat at the cafe and relaying an alleged incident that occurred there:
This afternoon, I was denied seating when I entered with 2 Alaska Native individuals.
Although the restaurant was nearly empty, I was explicitly told I would not be seated, as the hostess eyed the people with me. When I asked for a reason, the hostess said management ‘wants a higher-end clientele.’
This is not a high-end restaurant. It does not serve alcohol. It is a cafe with 3 stars on Yelp. However, it is clearly discriminatory, but not about their food or service.
Although the post is no longer visible on Satler’s Facebook profile, it reached a wide audience, being shared over 200 times on the social media platform. The night after Satler’s post was made, a break-in at the cafe occurred and vandals caused about $10,000 in damage to the restaurant, according to KTVA.
Michael Patterson, whose parents own the cafe, said the vandals dumped bleach all over the restaurant’s carpets, destroyed the kitchen, robbed the eatery, and broke a natural gas pipe, which could have caused a deadly fire. And, it was all over a misunderstanding, he said. In his own Facebook post, he described the incident that led to the cafe being targeted as well as the damage the restaurant sustained:
Two days ago an employee and a customer got into a disagreement about seating two people who are homeless. Eventually this disagreement started to spread on FB. Since then we have received a ton of phone calls of people calling us racist against AK Native peoples.
Ironically most of the conversations I had with people were positive and full of understanding. A huge miscommunication which could have easily been cleared up through dialogue escalated. Last night we had a break in at the cafe. We were robbed, bleach was put on our carpets, our wine stolen or destroyed, our kitchen destroyed. Whoever did this also broke a natural gas pipe in the hopes that whoever opened in the morning would spark a fire (which would have been myself or my brother, we’re both African-American and Iraq and Afghan War Vets) We’re also neighbors with the YWCA and the Gay & Lesbian Community Center which if the cafe would have caught on fire [it’s] a pretty good chance those establishments would have as well.
I understand why people are upset because racism against AK natives is real and it happens everyday but the cafe does not engage in discrimination. Most of the staff are people of color, a large amount of our customers are AK native and a good amount of our customer are homeless. We give out food all the time or let folks drink coffee who are trying to get out off the street.
We also have to deal with folks who are experiencing mental health crisis (on a regular basis) and a few act out violently toward us and other customers. We have to the right to feel safe where we work.
To whoever did this I hope you get caught. If you were trying to avenge some sort grievance all you did was potentially kill someone, or burn down a business and organizations that serve the community.
To the people who called to harass us and spread disinformation about the cafe without even bothering to ask us what happened. You also are responsible.
According to Michael Patterson, the incident that Satler’s post described had nothing to do with race. Instead, a woman attempted to purchase food for two people who appeared homeless and the hostess reportedly said that those two people would have to take the food to go. But, she had a reason for making the request, Patterson explained.
“That day, two hours before [this incident], we had to deal with an individual off the street who started eating food off plates, and when she was asked to leave, she started throwing food at the waiter and customers,” Patterson said. “We’re trying to create an environment where people want to eat,” he added. “This was a miscommunication that could have been easily talked about it then blows up over a period of time on Facebook and now you have a violent act.”
Patterson also explained that his son is an Alaska Native, so he took particular offense with the accusation that his family’s restaurant is racist. “My son is Alaska Native and if anyone treated my son like this, my mom and my family we would be the first people to stand up and say something,” he explained. “So to be called racist almost on a daily basis, you know, for a variety of reasons because people don’t like service, it hurts.”
But, it was what he had to say about social media that everyone needs to consider the next time they see a post defaming a place or person. “I’m an Iraq War vet and my brother is an Afghan War vet,” Patterson said. “That we can survive deployments and then we go to open the door to our work and a spark ignited and we could have been injured or killed because a miscommunication led to an escalation through Facebook, and then people took it upon themselves to commit an act of violence is stupid.” Simply put, he hopes more people will have a healthy conversation that can lead to positive change, and we couldn’t agree more.