On May 30, Los Angeles protests against police brutality centered on the Fairfax district, a historic Jewish neighborhood, and home to an iconic Jewish restaurant: Canter’s Deli.
After his dining room was closed for two months, Marc Canter opened the delicatessen’s doors during protests decrying the death of George Floyd. He and his employees posted a sign in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the windows of the nearly 90-year-old restaurant. They also took to social media, tweeting, “Canter’s believes that black lives matter. In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we are putting out free bottles of water for protestors. Please stay safe.”
Canter’s believes that black lives matter.
In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we are putting out free bottles of water for protestors.
Please stay safe.
— canter’s deli (@cantersdeli) May 30, 2020
By the end of the day, Saturday, Canter’s had distributed 25 cases of water bottles, to both protesters and police. They allowed both parties to use their restrooms and order food.
“We support free-speech and anything that’s peaceful,” Canter told the Journal. “There are people coming out of the woodwork that are trying to blend in with the real protesters that are just troublemakers looking to take advantage of the situation and not very interested in what is being protested.”
Supporting both police and protesters may seem like a tricky business for some, but Canter said playing peacekeeper was not difficult. “We have always had a great relationship with the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) and Sheriff’s Department. The police were here to protect and keep the peace during a demonstration.”
However, he added, he understood why the marches escalated. “Tensions have been very high since COVID-19 and a lot of people are out of work, so it’s hard to do peaceful demonstration with so much going on at the same time.”
While many of the neighboring businesses were heavily vandalized and looted, Canter’s remained untouched, save for some minor graffiti. However, the deli’s long history may have prepared it for the uprisings. During the Rodney King Riots in 1992, Canter’s remained open, feeding Angelenos when supermarkets closed.
“We actually learned from the ’92 riots to not leave your property alone without security while you are closed,” Canter said. He advised other small businesses to follow suit. “Businesses that have security have a better chance of not getting vandalized,” he said.
And with the recent lift on COVID-19 restrictions for restaurants, Canter’s Deli, Canter said, will remain open, riots or no riots.