Two incidents involving Fairbanks businesses bring racism to the front of conversations

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, people are speaking out across the country about police brutality and racism. Two incidents over the last few days involving Fairbanks businesses have brought the topic of racism to the forefront of the conversation in our community.

People standing outside of Fairbanks Espresso to show their support to the coffee hut after a controversial event occurred. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

On Saturday, after the 'I can't breathe rally,' Flyn Ludington, a Fairbanks resident, says she drove by another group from the rally and showed support to each other through throwing up a clenched fist and honking.

"One hundred feet later on the corner right by Big Daddy's, there were four or five men, some of which were wearing kitchen whites, they had obviously heard the people who I had just honked at were still in ear shot, my window was still rolled down, and somebody said very loudly 'white power' into my car window," said Ludington.

Ludington says she pulled back around and asked if they had yelled white power at her, "there was some laughter among them and another one said no he said 'white powder, we're all out of baking soda'.”

Jeff Oden, the owner of Big Daddy's Barb-Q and Banquet hall, says they do not support the actions that took place.

"It did take us a little while to figure out exactly what happened, there were several stories, and once we got the truth, that we believed to be the truth, we immediately responded. We did let the employee go, and the ones that were in question, that we still weren't sure about, we did send home for a couple of days so we could dig further into it and see what truth really came out," said Oden.

On Monday, another incident occurred at Fairbanks Espresso where the owner of the coffee hut, Caitlin Gonzalez, wrote a message to a customer who was wearing a "Make America Great Again” or "MAGA" hat and had a sign in his truck.

On the tin foil of his breakfast burrito Gonzalez wrote, "I saw your MAGA hat and sign. #Black Lives matter. Don't come here again."

"When he initially came through I treated him as a regular customer, I took his order very politely regardless of his stance on things. I made his 16 ounce mocha and his burrito to code, and while I waited for his burrito to finish, I said 'I got to say something' and I wrote that message on the tin foil," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez says she wishes the message had not transferred to the burrito, but she stands by her decision.

"Was the message transferring to his tortilla ideal? No, and honestly I wished that had not happened. That is not the type of person I am, and that was not intentional at all. In the heat of the moment, the burrito got wrapped, the burrito was hot, and the ink transferred, that wasn't my intention," said Gonzalez.

Seth Church is a Fairbanks resident and says he knows the man who wore the 'MAGA' hat, but did not want to disclose their relationship. Church says that to him and the man, it was just about breakfast.

“I’ll relay pretty much his feelings, this is about breakfast. He came in at 8 a.m., he brought a burrito, had a friendly [manner], just said ‘hey I would like a burrito and coffee’ and then he paid. This is about buying a burrito and coffee and trusting that your food isn't tampered with and also further, not being publicly shamed on social media by a business just because of the hat you're wearing or sign you have or bumper sticker, that's what this is all about,” said Church.

The man who was served the burrito wants to remain anonymous.

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