Ian Eisenberg talks with protesters outside his shop last year. Photo by Casey Jaywork.

Jewish Pot Store Owner Told to ‘Go Back to Germany, Let Those Nazis Get On You’

On Saturday, a long-running dispute over neighborhood identity got uglier.

On Saturday in the Central District, local activist Omari Tahir-Garrett told businessman Ian Eisenberg, who is Jewish, to “go back to Germany” in order to “let those Nazis get on you again.”

Eisenberg captured the comments on a video he posted to Twitter. The incident was part of a long-running dispute between anti-gentrification activists and Eisenberg over development and displacement in the Central District, Seattle’s historically black neighborhood. The recent eviction of the Umoja PEACE Center, where Tahir-Garrett lived as caretaker for nearly a decade, has further inflamed that conflict.

In the video, Tahir-Garrett can be seen walking (with the aid of a crutch) in front of the parking lot of Uncle Ike’s, Eisenberg’s legal cannabis store at 23rd and Union, during a protest. “You’re not going to be here long,” Tahir-Garrett tells Eisenberg, who according to The Seattle Times grew up in the Central District. “You’re gonna go back where you came from—Germany! You’re going to go back to Germany, make those Nazis get on you again. Stupid-ass fool. Go put a dope store next to a church in Germany! Go back to Germany and put a dope store next to a church in Germany! You’re a little, cowardly criminal.”

Here’s the video:

According to multiple witnesses, the video occured just after some kind of physical altercation between Ike’s staff and one or more attendees.

Despite repeated attempts, we were not able to reach Tahir-Garrett before publishing. We will update this post if and when we hear from him.

Eisenberg says that while this is the first time he’s been able to capture Tahir-Garrett’s anti-Jewish remarks on camera, the remarks themselves have been going on for years. “It’s not new, he says that kind of shit to me all the time,” says Eisenberg. “Normally it’s about my sons, too. He’s an anti-Semite.” Eisenberg claims Tahir-Garrett has used stronger anti-Semitic epithets in the past.

This isn’t the first time anti-Semitism has been caught on video at an anti-Ike’s protests. In 2015, as PubliCola reported, an unidentified protester claimed that Eisenberg is a former member of the Israeli military. (He’s not.)

In 2013, Omari told an Asian employee of Johnson Controls who was trying to remove signs from the Liberty Bank property that “you belong in Asia…You don’t belong in the Native Americans’ land. How did you get over here? Don’t you have a country? Are you in Asia?”

Sara Mae, owner of the nearby 701 Coffee cafe, says that at an anti-Ike’s protest last year she saw Tahir-Garrett make similar statements to Eisenberg—something to the effect of, “We should put you and your sons on a boat back to Nazi Germany,” she recalls.

“I support protest, because I think there’s a legitimate greivance that people in the community have,” she says. “But this anti-Semitic bullshit, [and] calling Ian’s employees ‘Sambo’ and ‘Uncle Tom,’ telling them ‘We’re going to find out where you live’—that rhetoric is fucked,” says Mae, “and I can’t stand by and support that or not say anything.

“When I’ve been attacked for being queer, it’s always first ‘You fucking faggot, cocksucker,’ whatever, before I’ve been attacked,” says Mae, who is transgender. “I think that rhetoric is dangerous.”

Cliff Cawthon, an organizer with Standing Against Foreclosure and Eviction (SAFE), has been one of the main organizers protesting the Umoja PEACE Center eviction in recent weeks. Cawthon was quick to distance his organization from Tahir-Garrett’s comments about sending Eisenberg to Nazi Germany. “SAFE absolutely doesn’t condone Omari Garrett’s comments,” said Cawthon via email, “…yet we will defend his right to housing.” Cawthon added that “the rally was supposed to be a peaceful celebration.” He blames Eisenberg for escalating things. “The hostility started on their side,” says Cawthon.

“We condemn all forms of bigotry,” Cawthon said. “But more importantly, we don’t want to forsake Omari’s right to housing, [and] we don’t want to paint him as a horrible person. We just think the statements [he made to Eisenberg] are unfortunate, and we definitely don’t condone them” and do condemn them, he said.

In response to the video, Tahir-Garrett’s son Wyking Garrett sent us an email statement attributed to the Coalition for Inclusive Development, which is comprised of Afrikatown, Black Dot, and the Umoja PEACE Center. Omari Tahir-Garrett is not a signatory. The statement reads in part:

“Currently, there is a video making the rounds featuring statements designed to intentionally misrepresent and undermine the goals of Africatown, Black Dot, Umoja Peace Center, and of the many community and institutional partners…The video has been promoted in a way that suggests the well-known community member [Omari Tahir-Garrett] making these incendiary comments made them on behalf of Africatown, Black Dot, and Umoja Peace Center.”

The statement continues: “We do not wish for the horrific acts that First Nations, Africans, and others have suffered to befall others…We hope that those who are offended by the video feel just as compelled (if not more so) to respond to the offensive actions that are the gentrification and displacement of Seattle’s African American community from the Central District – and that they act with the same amount of diligence and fervor to which this intentional misdirection has been applied.”

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