Battle of the Blue Cat

The hate you spill out has deadly conequences.

Rebecca Gray was in the market. She’d dreamed of opening a “cat cafe” since hearing about two businesses—one in Montreal, one in Oakland—where patrons could sip cappuccinos and nosh on snacks in the company of resident felines. Gray, then 31, quit her job at an Austin start-up and got to work. She had a name—the Blue Cat Café, after her cat Max, a Russian blue—and $62,533 from a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. Now she needed a space. With her business partner, Jacques Casimir, she looked all over Austin before settling on a former mechanic’s garage sitting toward the back of a seven-thousand-square-foot lot on East Cesar Chavez. Within 48 hours of visiting the property in July 2015, they had handed over the deposit and signed a five-year lease. The front of the lot, where Jumpolin once stood, would become cafe parking.

The cafe celebrated its grand opening on October 17, 2015. The first patrons to arrive, many of them Kickstarter donors, were greeted by a line of protesters carrying signs (“Hey hipster, don’t be a pussy!”) and chanting slogans (“Pet your cat, sip your tea, on the ruins of Jumpolin”). The community, it seemed, was making good on its promise to boycott, and they wanted everyone to know it. When, two months later, the Lejarazus reached an undisclosed settlement with F&F over the demolition of Jumpolin and began scouting new locations for their store, Gray breathed a sigh of relief. The protesters, she thought, would now leave her alone.

But neighborhood activists remained determined to carry on the boycott. Several of them, including veteran East Austin organizer Bertha Delgado, formed a group, Defend Our Hoodz—Defiende El Barrio. In February 2016, Defend Our Hoodz launched a Facebook page that would be moderated by Chris Ledesma, a young Chicano activist. The group used social media to organize increasingly vitriolic protests outside the cat cafe. More than once, employees called the police to keep demonstrators off the property. Video from July 2016 shows a gathering of sign-carrying protesters lining the sidewalk outside the cafe. “To all you white people, you look really f—ing comfortable right now because you’ve got a small army of pigs to protect you,” a man yells into a bullhorn. “How does it feel to need an army of pigs to protect you from the f—ing neighborhood? Get out!”

On the morning of October 21, 2016, a few days after the cafe’s one-year anniversary, Gray arrived at work to find the locks superglued shut and “F— You Gentrified Scum” spray-painted in red on one of the exterior walls. Later that day, about a dozen protesters from Defend Our Hoodz arrived, many wearing red bandannas to hide their faces. Diane Ontiveros, who lives next door to the Blue Cat Café, witnessed a confrontation between Gray and the demonstrators. “They were trying to walk her off her property so they could get a hold of her, but I ran over and pulled her by her hand back this way,” she says. “One gentleman told me that I would pay for that.” The 57-year-old Ontiveros says she found a dead cat in her front yard the following day. (A spokesperson for Defend Our Hoodz denies responsibility for the graffiti, the vandalism, and the dead cat, attributing the acts to “people in the neighborhood.”)

Jumpolin is gone and really was it worth saving? it was in the parking lot of the building bought - could have moved anywhere.....but now, so is Blue Cat Cafe, and gentrification will continue, with one less sweet spot trying to save something!

Moral of this story, hate and bullying does nothing to save anything!

It divides us and keeps us occupied with hate while the wealthy scoops all it up!

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