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Firebomb hits new Starbucks
by JOSEPH ROSE
Thursday May 6th, 2004 7:44 AM
Someone also breaks three windows at the Southeast Portland store, which has drawn neighborhood opposition.....
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Portland's Independent Media Center, a Web site that frequently is used to coordinate protests, urged resistance to Starbucks' arrival in the neighborhood.

"The first day of this parasitic corporate invasion is also the first day of the Starbucks Resistance," the Web site said. "We will stop at nothing but the complete withdrawal of this unjust corporation from our community."

The Web site urged people to protest outside the coffee shop from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday. But by midafternoon, there was one protester holding a cardboard sign, and a group of black-clad young people, some with kerchiefs covering their faces, sitting at tables in front, sipping coffee.

Build a Starbucks in a part of Portland with aversions to most things corporate, and the coffee shop is bound to draw fierce protests.

But even in the open-minded Hosford-Abernethy neighborhood, people say arson is not an acceptable form of expression.

Just before 11 p.m. Tuesday, someone hurled a Molotov cocktail at the windows of a controversial new store at Southeast 20th Avenue and Division Street.

Vandals broke three windows, and the homemade firebomb was found on the sidewalk, where it flamed out against the stucco exterior, fire officials said.

The coffee shop opened for the first time Wednesday, with plywood covering the damaged windows. During the afternoon, it was filled with customers who were treated to free coffee and pastries for a "friends and family" celebration.

"It was a pretty lame attempt," said Peter Perrin, the building's developer, "Still, it shows this local neighborhood controversy has really run amok."

Since Perrin proposed adding a Starbucks to a corner development of local businesses, many neighbors have opposed it, saying it represents more than a latte stop displaying the familiar green mermaid signs.

Some see a corporate giant that will steal customers from local shops. Others see Starbucks as a beacon of corporate globalization, ravaging the environment and promoting unfair labor practices.

The Seattle-based coffee giant, in turn, has tried hard to prove it is a socially responsible company. It has talked up its commitment to environmental ethics, health care for its employees and fair treatment of coffee growers.

Starbucks contributed $1,000 toward a community garden in the nearby Ladd's Addition and gave money for the construction of a new playground at Abernethy School.

Michelle Cain, a district manager for Starbucks, said the store has received flowers, food and gifts from the community.

"The community response to our opening has been tremendous," she said, declining to comment on the vandalism.

Despite efforts to work with neighborhoods, Starbucks has become a popular target of Portland activists. So many windows have been smashed around the city, some Starbucks managers said they automatically consider the vandalism more of a political crime than the work of hooligans.

In November, someone filled the door locks at three Starbucks locations with glue during the night, which made them inoperable.

At one point during construction of the Hosford-Abernethy store, which is in a popular area known as the Seven Corners, vandals broke out windows. On Friday, Critical Mass bicyclists joined pickets outside.

Web site urges resistance

Portland's Independent Media Center, a Web site that frequently is used to coordinate protests, urged resistance to Starbucks' arrival in the neighborhood.

"The first day of this parasitic corporate invasion is also the first day of the Starbucks Resistance," the Web site said. "We will stop at nothing but the complete withdrawal of this unjust corporation from our community."

The Web site urged people to protest outside the coffee shop from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesday. But by midafternoon, there was one protester holding a cardboard sign, and a group of black-clad young people, some with kerchiefs covering their faces, sitting at tables in front, sipping coffee.

Steve Hanrahan owns Mirador, a kitchen-and-supplies store across from the coffee shop. He said a petition has been circulated to show that the new coffee shop has little support.

"I haven't had a single person come in here talking about the Starbucks and say they're glad," he said. "Most of the people want a locally owned business in the neighborhood."

Lt. Allen Oswalt, a Portland Fire Bureau spokesman, said investigators hope footage from a digital security camera outside the Starbucks store will lead to an arrest.

"Depending on what they see from the camera, we might need some help from the public," he said. "We might need to release the video posthaste."

Variety of viewpoints

Perrin said the neighborhood association hasn't done enough to check emotions and shares much of the blame for the vandalism. "They've stirred it up to the point that people are creating criminal acts," he said.

Chris Eykamp, neighborhood association president, said the association hasn't taken a position on the Starbucks. He had the same opinion of Perrin's comments and the firebombing: "Things have gone too far."

Aaron Winer was driving by the store Wednesday afternoon with a co-worker and stopped in for coffee after seeing the plywood covering windows in the storefront. The vandalism, he said, is "inappropriate," and if neighbors don't want the Starbucks, they should stay away from the store.

"They would probably close if they don't have the business," he said. "There's other coffee shops."

Sally Noble is a regular customer at the Red and Black Coffee Collective across the street, a popular hangout for anarchists and the liberal-minded. The neighborhood is tight-knit, she said, and most people would like to maintain a local flavor. Still, she opposed the vandalism and said it gives activists a bad name.

"I hope there's not a war that's created," she said. "It's just coffee."

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