On Friday evening, a peaceful protest in Dalston for justice for Rashan Charles was escalated by a heavy police presence. One event that occurred on this evening was the smashing of front windows of a local vegan restaurant, Fed By Water.

In reaction to this, on Facebook Ben Kouijzer posted the following status which the restaurant saw fit to repost and support.

Unsurprisingly, the post was met with rampant criticism. Protest is the voice of the voiceless, and here it’s the grief-stricken and angry voices of people in mourning. Fed by Water was clearly more worried about its windows than the life of a young black man being lost in the local community. Responding to such deaths with complete nonchalance is arguably a part of the problem. Also, saying “we need to get to the bottom of why young kids turn to violence and drugs”, while simultaneously condemning a protest against police brutality, was completely hypocritical. Why is the violence of protesters being criticised, but not the violence of the police? How do we get to the bottom of it if we don’t protest?

On top of this, a vegan restaurant supporting the use of the term “animals” as derogatory is ridiculous. Not only should they be condemning its use because they support the theory that all life is equal, but this terminology when associated with black people has a terrible and racist history and should not be used by anyone.

One Twitter user pointed out that a tweet liked by the FBW Twitter account read: “Perhaps black people should stop murdering black people. This guy swallowed his stash. No conspiracy here.”

Besides the fact that the tweet was completely irrelevant to the subject at hand, as Rashan Charles was allegedly killed by a white police officer, I was shocked that a company who seemed so “woke” could be so unaware of the issues with claiming black on black violence as a real problem. James Hurst, a now ex staff member, thanked me for bringing this to light on Facebook and said he was adding it to his resignation letter.

The company then posted a status on their Facebook page which included “Elderly neighbours were fearful of their houses being burnt down when they watched from their windows young people pouring petrol all over police vans”, and “what was most shocking to me as an animal lover and vegan was seeing horses being used to control crowds and dogs walking on broken glass used to protect the police force.”

I was completely outraged by the restaurant’s lack of empathy. Why was the company worried about old people who feared for their houses, but not for the black people who live in daily fear of police brutality? Why was the post expressing concern for horses and dogs used by the police, as if this was the fault of the protesters, and why does it suggest that animal lives are more important than black lives?

FBW then deactivated their Facebook page, presumably due to the onslaught of outraged comments. When reactivated, they said “We have now reinstated our Facebook page. It was not our intention to sensor [sic] anyone. We respect and support our local community and we are deeply saddened that our words have been misinterpreted. When we said ‘all LIFE matters’ we were trying to express our philosophy of peace and equality for all species. It was in no way related to the antisocial movement of #alllivesmatter. We can appreciate the anger felt by anyone who viewed it in that way. We hope that this clarifies everything.”

FBW did not apologise for downplaying the importance of protesting for justice for Rashan Charles. They did not apologise for calling protesters “animals” and playing into historically racist tropes of black people. Nor did they apologise for not listening to the people who tried to educate them. All we wanted to hear was a sincere sorry, but an apology seems a long way off.

The post states, “We hope this clarifies everything” and yet we still have no answers as to why the company liked a tweet about black on black crime (which has since been unliked) or when they will be issuing a full apology for publicly offending their local community.

The company was also found to be editing their comments, instead of apologising for them.

Michaela Coel, a frequent patron of the restaurant and supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, requested a meeting with the owner to discuss these incidents. They replied asking her to send a direct message via Twitter. After sending the DM on Sunday evening, she claimed on Monday that she was yet to receive a response.

 

The restaurant is in Hackney, a London borough rife with gentrification. Tensions are high between the community and police, and there can be bitterness towards businesses who do not support their local community. With house prices rising and locals being forced out of an area they have lived in for years, businesses such as FBW move in and start catering to new residents. While this is great for the business, it creates a divide between old residents and new. Rarely do these businesses put the money they make back into the local community, and rarely do they make an effort to understand the tribulations of the locals they are moving next door to.

To add to this, the vegan community has often been criticised for retaining a very white demographic and not being intersectional. As a local vegan myself, I currently find it very shameful to have this restaurant claim to be a part of the vegan community in Hackney. White vegans often advocate for the lives of animals, but their voices fall short when it comes to the lives of fellow humans that do not share their skin colour. FBW seem to be playing into the hands of this view by supporting calling protesters “animals” and valuing their broken windows over justice for Rashan Charles’ family.

Fed By Water was contacted by gal-dem directly to give a response but an employee on the phone stated that the company was “not interested” – that much was clear already.

To donate money to help pay for the cost of Rashan Charles’ funeral click here