News November 05, 2020 at 09:00 am

Police probing threat to ‘raid’ California town’s only Black-owned business if Biden wins

Abu Mubarik November 05, 2020 at 09:00 am

November 05, 2020 at 09:00 am | News

Tiburon police officer James Harris stands outside Yema in Tiburon. (Sherry LaVars/Marin Independent Journal)

The police in Tiburon, California, are investigating a threat to “raid” the town’s only Black-owned merchant shop if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins the U.S. presidential election. The threat to attack Yema, a clothing store on Main Street, was made in an Instagram post which has since been taken down, according to Mercury News

“If Biden wins me and the boys gonna go raid yemma,” said the author [with the account name griffin.williams72.] “4:00 on Election Day show up.” The post was accompanied by a photo of Yema’s storefront. 

The shop is owned by an immigrant couple— Yema Khalif and Hawi Awash. Yema emigrated from Nairobi, Kenya to attend Dominican University on scholarship. He later met his wife Awash, who is an entrepreneur and an Ethiopian immigrant. 

According to Mercury News, the owners of the shop were notified of the potential threat by the parents of students at Del Mar Middle School whose children follow “griffin.williams72” on Instagram. “Where we come from, we are not allowed to make those jokes,” Khalif said. “We take it as a full threat, and that’s how we look at it.”

Town Manager Greg Chanis said interim police Chief Jamie Scardina has been made aware of the threat and that a decision has been taken to increase police patrol in the area. “Given the day today and everything else going on, we will take it as a serious threat,” Chanis said. “We will react accordingly.”

The Black couple expressed their appreciation to the concerned citizens who informed them about the threat. “We commend the person who reached out because if the community turns a blind eye to this hateful rhetoric it’ll take root,” Khalif said. 

“Right now the person who reached out to make us aware allowed us to put out a warning, otherwise we would not have known and we would have been blindsided by the whole thing.”

In August, Khalif and Awash were in the news for accusing the police of racially profiling them. The incident happened when the couple went to their shop around 1 am to work on a newly-arrived inventory.

They explained that the police circled their shop about four times before parking at a distance to watch them. According to them, they believe the police were suspicious of them. The couple find that very offensive having lived in Tiburon for 10 years and being the only Black-owned store in the community.

“Driving around the block four times, that is already problematic, a Black person always knows when they are being profiled,” Khalif told Fox 2. “Black people in the store, what’s the problem with that ?'” he asked.

“The officer should have knocked, introduced himself, and explained he was patrolling Main Street,” said Awash. “But instead it was more like, ‘Who are you? And prove yourself.'”

The incident was condemned by the community, resulting in the resignation of the supervising sergeant, Michael Blasi, and the early retirement of the police chief, Michael Cronin, Mercury News reported.

According to Fox 2, Khalif was named May 2020 Business of the Month by the Tiburon Chamber of Commerce. In addition, the couple donates 20 percent of each sale to help young people in Africa escape poverty through education.  

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