A Portland woman set off a furious social media debate after confronting a man she believed to be wearing a Nazi t-shirt inside a Portland restaurant.
The woman, Deavon Snoke, was dining at Kachka, a celebrated Russian restaurant. The restaurant is owned by a Jewish chef, her Mexican husband and an Arab restaurant investor. The chef, Bonnie Frumkin Morales, is a James Beard nominee whose family escaped the Holocaust.
On March 13, Snoke says she was eating at the restaurant when she noticed a man wearing a shirt with an eagle and the word "Luftwaffe" printed on it. "Luftwaffe" is German for "air force" and the word was used before, during and after the Nazi era. The Luftwaffe still exists.
"I was asked to leave Kachka tonight for calling this Nazi out," Snoke wrote on Facebook. "Remember his face. Memorize the symbolism on his shirt. Yell as loud as you can."
The post has been shared more than 500 times, with comments such as "I don't think I could even hurt my fist punching this Nazi."
"I don't think that anyone was targeting us because of our background, but the irony is not lost on us. It has caused us immense heartache and pain," Israel Morales, co-owner and husband to chef Bonnie Frumkin Morales, tells Raw Story.
The restaurant disputes this account, saying that Snoke was not asked to leave. (Snoke did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
Israel Morales said the situation played out over 45 minutes. He'd been alerted by a customer that a man was possibly wearing a "Nazi propaganda shirt" and was researching it online when things escalated.
"While I was starting to look into the shirt online, the rest of his party paid their bill. After they paid, they began talking loudly, which alerted me. One by one, each of the three people left, but not without causing a scene, disturbing other guests," he says. "[Snoke] stood up and confronted the man wearing the shirt—which is when I stepped in. I felt this could become a dangerous situation and my job as a business owner is to keep my customers safe. I walked up to them and barely got two words out before she stormed out."
[caption id="attachment_1236285" align="alignnone" width="482"] Deavon Snoke on her Facebook/Screenshot[/caption]
Kachka tried to quell the issue in a Facebook post.
"As the owners of Kachka, we feel the need to address a misunderstanding regarding an incident that occurred between customers in our restaurant, and the subsequent inaccurate and libelous comments on social media," wrote Bonnie Frumkin Morales, the Jewish chef-owner. "It is our understanding that a customer dining at Kachka was wearing a t-shirt with symbolism on it that another group found to be offensive. After a brief exchange of words, the group left the restaurant on its own accord and was not asked to leave. In a busy restaurant environment, our top priority is to keep our guests safe."
"While we can’t be responsible for what our guest choose to wear, let me be clear, we do not support Nazis or anything related to that group," Morales tells Raw Story. "The worst thing is that all this misinformation could actually cause discriminatory groups to think that Kachka is some sort of safe haven for them, which it most certainly is not."
[caption id="attachment_1236288" align="alignnone" width="259"] Kachka's Siberian Pelmeni/Martin Cizmar[/caption]
Portland—a very liberal and extremely white city obsessed with food—has been a tinderbox for such disputes in the past. A national controversy erupted around a breakfast burrito pop-up run by two white women, which prompted local activists Kristin Goodman and Alex Felsinger to circulate a list of "white-owned appropriative restaurants." Before that, protesters targeted a Colonial-themed restaurant on a gentrified street in a traditionally black neighborhood.
Kachka is now being hammered by social media activists.
"These guys are Nazi sympathizers. They allow patrons wearing blatant Nazi paraphernalia in their establishment and kick out dissenters. Fuck this place," wrote Kyle H, a concert promoter from Los Angeles.
"I can't believe Kachka is pretending like they didn't greet, seat, and serve a man in a Nazi shirt. We have the receipts," wrote Portlander Andrew Sorg, who caleld Kachka "a dangerous place" on Twitter. "If Kachka chooses to defends Nazis, it's time to run then out of town," Sorg wrote on Twitter.
A roiling debate concerns whether the shirt does, in fact, use Nazi symbols.
"Go anywhere in Europe wearing that, especially Germany, and you’d probably be arrested," another said.
A quick internet search revealed that the shirt is sold at mainline outdoor shops in Germany, like U.S. military shirts are sold here.
"The German Air Force IS called the Luftwaffe. Yes, they were disbanded in 1946, however, they were reestablished in 1956. Not the official logo now, but the eagle representing the Luftwaffe during Nazi Germany was holding a swastika in its talons. Please do your homework before accusing someone out in public of being a Nazi," another commenter noted.
"It’s the eagle. Yes, 'luftwaffe' translates to “air force” AND this is the term Germany used today BUT they haven’t used the eagle since WWII because of its association with the Nazis and the Third Reich. This connection however, is exactly why this person and the band chose the name and symbol," writes another.
Others targeted Snoke's apparently contradictory attitude toward Nazi attire: "You have a picture with Lemmy [Kilmister of Motorhead] on your Facebook and he legit wore ACTUAL Nazi attire from real Nazis and you seem to like him, so wow, yeah... Dumb."