A devoted Trump supporter who believes coronavirus is a hoax staged a one man protest at Bed-Stuy coffee shop this morning over their "Black Lives Matter" sign in the window.
"So, this was my morning," Rohan Singh, who took video of the confrontation, said. "I just wanted to get some coffee. But this racist asshole decided it's time to educate us and 'make a protest' about how 'all lives matter.'"
Singh had gone over to Burly Coffee/Better Read Than Dead, located on Koscuizsko Street, just after 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning when he came upon the confrontation, which was already in progress. "From what the barista told me, the man specifically walked up to complain about either the sign and/or the mask policy," Singh told Gothamist. "The barista was already trying to get the man to leave when I arrived. I stepped up and harshly told him to leave as well, but he wouldn't. So then I just started filming."
In the video, which was first posted on Reddit, the man can be heard arguing with an employee, pointing at the sign and saying, "This is the most racist thing out there, I'm not a racist...This is offensive and I want you to take off this sign."
The man in the video, Abraham "Avrumy" Knofler, confirmed to Gothamist in a phone interview that he was protesting at the coffee shop today. "I was making a protest—all lives matter," he said. Asked what he was trying to get out of this, he said, "They don't have to take it down, I just wanted to defend all lives matter." On his Twitter page, Knofler is decidedly pro-Trump, with lots of RTs of conservative figures; he also refers to coronavirus as a hoax ("#covidBS").
While several onlookers gathered and encouraged Knofler to leave the employee alone—including a neighbor from the apartment directly above, who said he was causing a disturbance—he refused, and continued to argue with her: "This sign caused the whole problem," he repeated several times. "The sign is causing the problem, not me."
"I don't understand why this is so offensive to you, to see something saying that 'Black Lives Matter,'" the store's employee tried to explain to Knofler. "It's not saying that all lives don't matter, it's just saying that Black lives matter because they haven't mattered in this country ever."
But Knofler still refused to leave, bringing up several conservative talking points—like that Republicans freed the slaves—and on top of all that, he also refused to wear a mask. "Why do I need a mask?" he asked repeatedly, before starting to chant "all lives matter" and claiming he was protesting. Earlier in the argument, he can also be heard declaring, "the pandemic is a hoax, only sheep like you wear the mask, because you've been told whatever you've been told, but you don't use your head, because you're stupid."
Knofler's own video of the confrontation, which Gothamist has reviewed, was shared in a WhatsApp group called "All Lives Matter."
Singh added on Twitter that while Knofler was nonviolent, "it was a horrible situation for the barista who was trapped there. I feel really bad for her."
An employee at Burly Coffee confirmed the confrontation occurred this morning, and said that management was preparing a statement about what happened. In the meantime, management and employees were "trying to take care of our staff who was traumatized by that man."
Last weekend, community leaders and volunteers painted a 375-foot-long stretch of Fulton Street in Restoration Plaza in the heart of Bed-Stuy with "Black Lives Matter" in yellow.
Update: Burly Coffee said in a statement that this isn't the first run-in they've had with Knofler. "We strongly stand with Black Lives Matter and applaud our staff for standing up to the blinding hate that has appeared at our door. Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident with this person and our priority continues to be the safety and well-being of our staff," they wrote. "We are overwhelmed by the generous support of our staff via our Venmo Tip Jar. The baristas that experienced this hatred will receive the tips directly. Burly will be making a contribution in support of the community we love and are thankful to be a part of."