On Tuesday afternoon, Jo, an owner/worker at the collectively owned Seward Community Café in Minneapolis (not to be confused with Seward Co-op), showed up at work after attending a couple of meetings. A talk on border resistance and dismantling immigrant detention centers was in progress.
Basically, Jo says, a “presentation on ICE and how they’re terrible.”
Jo, who prefers not to share their last name for safety reasons, says the talk wasn't unusual for Seward. The café sports some unmistakable progressive overtones. Still, the Facebook event for the talk had been peppered with comments from people suggesting they’d show up at “this gay event” to “knock beta heads” if they had the chance, so Jo was a little wary someone might start something.
Jo was still “dilly-dallying” when a customer said someone was filming the event and making people “uncomfortable.”
“I don’t want members of my community feeling uncomfortable in my business,” Jo says. The woman recording the proceedings was quietly asked to join them out back. Jo explained that customers were complaining about her being disruptive… and a little creepy. The woman was asked to leave. Instead, the woman started filming, insisting that it was her right to do so.
That wasn't quite true, since Seward owns the parking lot, and could ask anyone it wishes to leave.
After a lengthy back-and-forth, Jo threatened to call the police if the woman didn’t leave. Then the woman got in her car and drove off.
Back inside, customers disclosed that the woman was Danielle Stella, a Republican candidate hoping to unseat Minneapolis Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Besides her lengthy Twitter threads blaming Omar for most of society's ills, she’s made headlines for hinting at enthusiasm for the internet conspiracy group QAnon, and for having been charged with shoplifting a few thousand bucks’ worth of stuff from a suburban Target. She didn’t respond to interview requests.
Seeing where this was going, Jo hit up Stella’s Instagram account. Sure enough, there was a chain of videos from Stella’s visit to the café.
“Hi, everyone,” she says in her opening video. “Antifa is here in Minneapolis throwing a special event. Let’s check it out and see what they’re up to. Follow me.”
It was followed by a few videos of the presentation inside – mostly patrons quietly watching a couple of speakers describing their interactions with migrants and border patrol over Facetime. Then there’s a video of Jo confronting Stella in the parking lot.
“I have the right to ask what I was doing wrong,” Stella says, hidden behind the camera.
“You don’t have any right to stay in my business,” Jo answers. “As a small business owner, I can ask whoever I want to leave.”
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I just was threatened by ANTIFA and forced to leave abruptly and told to not video tape being asked to leave. They asked me to leave in front of everyone and brought me out back. I didn't have my phone on. In the parking lot they said I wasn't leaving fast enough, and escalated the situation. The one ANTIFA man had a baseball bat.... they knew my name too. Hmmm.
The video ends shortly after. The next time we see Stella, she’s in a car, facing the camera.
“Randomly this one lady came up and said that she needed to talk to me,” Stella says, apparently mistaking Jo’s gender. “She brought me to the back area with her and a bunch of guys.” In fact, she later said, there were “25 guys, that were antifa, that were wearing riot gear, just like in D.C.”
You can’t see these “guys” in the video, and Jo says there may not have even been "25 men total at the event." There’s a second of one other person standing in the background, and there is one male-sounding voice that asks Stella to stop recording at one point, but it’s hard to say from the footage who was with them in the parking lot. Stella did include a few blurry pictures of people in hoodies and bandanas in her post.
“One of the antifa men had a baseball bat, and the other had a cattle prod,” she continues. “They decided to give me 30 seconds, and they also threatened to call the police on me, while holding weapons and wearing antifa riot gear.”
She says she was not “being disruptive,” and nothing in the event description said she couldn’t record the event, and “antifa sucks.”
“A bunch of losers is what you are,” she says.
It wasn’t long before a bunch of commenters on her Instagram started agreeing with her. Each video has hundreds, if not thousands of views.
“Keep doing what you’re doing!” one commenter said. “It may not be easy but it’s going to be worth it.”
“You can’t let these little antifa punk sissies push you around – get some real Patriots to walk around with you – we are at war,” another suggested.
“Are you driving?” another asked.
Jo says ever since the posts, people have been making threats against the café, and they’re a little nervous to go into work at the moment. They suspect this will all blow over eventually. Still, they find it puzzling that Stella seemed to be portraying herself as the victim of some kind of discrimination.
“As a queer person, I don’t think she understands what that means,” they say. There are laws out there to protect people against discrimination, Jo notes, but they don’t include “being a rude dillweed to my customers.”