One of the groups behind the protests is called Defend Boyle Heights, and the group has been actively rallying members of the primarily Latino community to push back against Weird Wave’s presence. In a statement published on Facebook, the group said, in part:
We can’t let Boyle Heights become the new Highland Park, Echo Park or Silverlake! The vast majority – approximately 80-percent renters – can’t afford for that to happen.
Things will only escalate. Not because we want them too, but because this is literally a life or death, home or homeless, battle. Since the 1990s, Boyle Heights has struggled to get and keep authentically affordable housing. It’s not just about what a dozen of activists want; it’s about what all these residents who organize with all the groups that make up our coalition want.
Say no to Weird Wave Coffee! Stand with the low-income working class majority of Boyle Heights! This isn’t just about coffee; it’s about keeping Boyle Heights affordable! Dile no a los cocos! Gentrifiers are not welcomed in Boyle Heights! Fuera!
Owned by friends John Schwartz, Mario Chavarria and Jackson Defa, Weird Wave has maintained that the shop exists merely to serve quality coffee to the community, while not intending to represent any political or social movement. In a statement provided to Eater Los Angeles, Weird Wave’s Chavarria said, in part:
Weird Wave Coffee is a company owned by three individuals committed to a fair and consistent approach to the grass-roots enterprise of selling coffee. We recognize the role a coffee shop plays in a community, both as an advocate for that community but also as a vendor who’s role in the local economy is impactful. At Weird Wave, our goal is largely to supply incredibly delicious coffee and non-alcoholic beverages to the community.
Weird Wave’s approach to doing business locally begins and ends with keeping the flow of money inside the community. We take special pains to seek out vendors for our products who share our local-first approach.
LA Weekly reports that protests focused on the shop have been joined by numerous ant-gentrification organizations, even some from other neighborhoods including Highland Park and El Sereno. A grassroots coalition called the Boyle Heights Alianza Anti Artwashing y Desplazamiento (Boyle Heights Alliance Against Artwashing and Displacement, or B.H.A.A.A.D) has been active for several years promoting anti-gentrification efforts.
A nonprofit art space in Boyle Heights called PSSST closed earlier this year after reporting harassment from protesters and fundraising difficulties. In a published statement about the closing, the PSSST creators wrote, in part:
The ongoing controversy surrounding art and gentrification in Boyle Heights caused PSSST to become so contested that we are unable to ethically and financially proceed with our mission. Our young nonprofit struggled to survive through constant attacks. Our staff and artists were routinely trolled online and harassed in-person. This persistent targeting, which was often highly personal in nature, was made all the more intolerable because the artists we engaged are queer, women, and/or people of color. We could no longer continue to put already vulnerable communities at further risk.
While our closure might be applauded by some, it is not a victory for civil discourse and coalition building at a time when both are in short supply. The ongoing representation of a divisive battle–nonprofit art spaces versus the residents of Boyle Heights–resulted in the mischaracterization of PSSST as being fundamentally in opposition with the varied intersectional communities we aimed to support. This made fundraising an impossibility. Without financial support, PSSST, a fledgling nonprofit, cannot survive.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. Feedback and story ideas are welcome at publisher (at) dailycoffeenews.com, or see the "About Us" page located at the bottom of this site for contact information.