Reem’s Café owner, Reem Assil, claims to be an advocate of free speech.
When you enter the front door of Reem’s Café in Oakland, California the first thing you see is a giant floor to ceiling, colorful mural of terrorist and murderer Rasmea Odeh. It’s clear that Assil wants this image of Odeh front and center.
While we detest the glorification of terror the mural on her wall epitomizes, we recognize this is her right under the First Amendment. Does she recognize our right for peaceful protest? Apparently she doesn’t.
But first some background. Rasmea Odeh, a member of the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) was convicted in Israel and sentenced to life in prison for the bombings of two Jerusalem locations in February 1969. The first at a crowded supermarket took the lives of two Hebrew University students, Leon Kanner, 21, and Edward Joffe, 22, and injured nine people. The second bombing at the British Embassy had no injuries.
The evidence of Rasmea Odeh’s guilt is conclusive. Not only did she confess a day after her arrest, bomb-making materials were found in her room. Her co-conspirator, Ayesha Odeh, in a documentary interview willingly offered up how Odeh was directly involved in the bombings.
A few of us have been holding peaceful vigils at Reem’s to honor the memories of Kanner and Joffe. Assil is degrading their memories by grotesquely honoring their killer. We cannot let this stand.
We are also asking that Assil take down the mural. Though she said Reem’s is a place where people can “speak their mind and maybe have the hard conversations” she refuses to speak with any of us.
Instead, Assil wants to silence us. She repeatedly calls security and the Oakland Police Department to monitor our every move. Initially law enforcement even asked us to leave. But we know our rights.
Now Assil has gone much further. She has sued three of the protestors to obtain temporary restraining orders. The Alameda County Superior Court has twice denied Assil’s requests. Yet she perseveres with lawsuits aimed at quashing the voices of conscience about Odeh’s many crimes.
Why would Assil choose to lionize a convicted terrorist in a larger than life mural and not expect people to respond? And when they do, she quickly calls for cover from law enforcement and applies for restraining orders?
It is safe to say that Reem Assil only values free speech when it agrees with her own biased views.
A few days ago, we returned to Reem’s to again honor the memories of Leon Kanner and Edward Joffee. You can watch our brief video account here.