So I live in West Philly. I technically live on the border between West and Southwest Philly. I have live in this neighborhood my whole life. Has the neighborhood changed? Yes. And it has gotten pricier. And most of this is because it is close to universities such as the U of Penn. But those changes, that gentrification, occurred 15-20 years ago. (I've lived in the neighborhood longer than that. And it changed from Catholic Irish/Black neighborhood to white/gay/black/Chinese/African/college student neighborhood. Until the yuppies showed up and added themselves to the mix).
So there is a local pizza/bar and the owners own another place that has been open for close to 20 years in the neighborhood. They support local breweries and the food is good (ingredients are from the Philly area).
So last month there is this black man who is protesting across the street saying he was fired unfairly and because he was black. He was joined recently by what is reported as nine other former employees who say he is a friend and he was the third black man fired in 3 months. They also state the work place is homophobic and anti-Muslim. All nine are white. (And I've been to the place often enough in the last year, that one of those people should look familiar if they are front house staff, and none of them do).
They have a GoFundMe and they stated aim is to close both restaurants and to stop the gentrification of West Philly (I think they really mean Southwest). (The last place targeted with the gentrification label was a café that was locally owned, hired locally, and the owner had business in the area for 40 years, and was born and raised in the area).
The protest included shouting at patrons. This also effected the Green Line Café across the street, and some of their patrons got shouted at. It's a coffee shop with local owners (one of whom lives around the corner from the café, the other around the corner from me. One of them knew my dog before I did. The café also supports local artists and immigrants).
The owners, of course, deny the charges. They have said they fired the employee because he repeatedly showed up late and did not get his certification. They have fired an injunction to move the protest. They have closed down this week for staff training and bias training (which could be admitting something). Furthermore, one owner, about four years ago, posted a racially charged tweet - something about how some interior design trend was so bad that he would rather have slavery back. The tweet was removed, he apoglized, and the place was boycotted until a donation was made. (two of the owners live locally, they hire locally and citywide). But there is an established history of at least one racially insensitive (at best) incident.
There has not been much local coverage. What local press there is, has been written by writers who are clearly not familiar with the neighborhood. The business that the pizza place replaced was for years called the Wurst House, and was sold once too often, finally ending with an owner who didn't care (literally there were nail clippings in the food at one point). The local press just simply reports what each side says. And they have used the word gentrification about the business which isn't quite true - one place is the only business on its street, the pizza place is down the book from the typical West/Southwest Philly businesses - locally owned pet store, Marxist book shop, independent for charity bookshop, that weird store that sells who knows what, a couple African places to eat, a couple Vietnamese places to eat, two local "cheap" pizza places .
Most long time residents in the neighborhood are confused. The protest group has not responded to any news outlet (including the local PBS one) which has people wary. The owners of both places have contributed to the neighborhood (not counting the donation after the racial tweet), but there was that racial tweet. The local protestors have not been to any of the local meetings about the developments that two groups are trying to put in, so that makes their claim about caring for the neighborhood look a bit lopsided. (why not protest the Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks for instance?)
Does anyone here have any ideas on how to at least get information that isn't simply from one side or the other? I don't want to support a racist or homophobic business and considering the past tweet the charge very well could be true. But the people making the charge are so vague about many things. And the local Sanders group supposedly supports the protest, but they held the debate watch party at the bar that has been a local problem on my block for years (and has been repeatedly been closed for coding violations and unpaid taxes. The owner is white and a former cop).
One of the protestors said all you needed to do was the type the name of the place into Facebook and you would find horror stories. Ah, no. The only anti-place stories are the recent ones. Older posts are all about people having a good time at the place or about the sacrifice to the sinkhole. I did a search on twitter and pretty much the same thing. The only person having a thread about the protest did not seem local.
Anyway, just needed to vent my confusion. Because it sounds like a clusterfuck of idiots on both sides.
I'll just keep supporting the Green Line Café, no drama there.