A Virtual Zine Project
c/o Project Nia & Interrupting Criminalization

Explore snapshots of community-based safety strategies that expand our ideas about what keeps us safe.

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Location: Oakland, CA

Organization: Hasta Muerte Cafe

Contact: hastamuertecoffee@gmail.com

Hasta Muerte Cafe is a worker cooperative, “committed to developing an economic structure that not only maintains our business but that also sustains our people. We encourage and empower each other to take ownership and agency in the decision-making process. We aim to stand out as a model for a new movement of worker cooperatives that offer dignified and supportive work to its community.”

︎ Does not collaborate with police
In 2018, the Hasta Muerte coffee shop made national headlines when they refused to serve police officers in their cafe, a worker cooperative in the Fruitvale area of Oakland. Prior to their opening a year earlier, the workers decided on the policy and wrote a script to read to police officers who showed up in the space:

“Hi. We have a policy of asking police officers to leave, for the physical and emotional well-being of our community and ourselves. Thanks.”

Workers, all of whom had negative personal experiences with police, agreed that they did not want a police presence in their cafe and actively worked build other options fpr when someone is harmed in or around the cafe. After they made headlines in 2018, Hasta Muerte was targeted by white supremacists, police supporters, and received blowback from the Oakland Police Department. As a result, some co-op members spent time doing self-defense and de-escalation training. Workers continued to collaborate with long-time residents to establish policies and programs to reduce harm in the space and avoid a police presence.

You can read the zine about the policy and their work here, including their “Coffee Community Guidelines” listed below:

  1. Take some extra time to talk to neighbors and identify ones that are on a similar tip about police.
  2. Learn and teach de-escalation trainings with your co-workers, neighbors, and family.
  3. Invest time in development of non-police emergency protocols for your business, workplace or organization, block, or apartment complex.
  4. Create and organize other ways to enable your group to make calling the police your very last resort.
  5. Join the larger alliance and build with us! We will find strength in numbers.

Spread the culture of responding to hard situations without police at work, your block,or apartment complex. Start with the neighbors you know. Find small ways to develop trust with those you don’t know well. If you are new to the culture, seek out those who aren’t. We are not saying that this is easy work to do, but that is why it’s crucial to build mutual support around it!

In an interview, worker Matt Gereghty responded to the question, “Do you think this is an example that can be replicated in other places?” by saying:

“I think with certain care. We're talking about it now with a core group of other specifically POC and Black owned co-ops and small businesses... a little alliance so we can share ideas, stories, resources. [For example] how do you have safety without police? How do you make a living without exploiting people and also being affordable enough for your people to afford in capitalism?  They're all connected.”

Source: After Asking OPD to Leave, This Cafe Made a Plan for Community Safety, Pendarvis Harshaw, KQED, May 21, 2021