28 Sep 2015 | 04.25 pm
Why London Mob Attacked Irish-Owned Cafe
London breakfast cereals specialist run by Belfast brothers targeted in anti-gentrification protest
28 Sep 2015 | 04.25 pm
The Cereal Killer Café in Shoreditch, run by Northern Irish twin brothers was the target of an anti-gentrification protest in London on Saturday.
The café was smeared with red paint and cheap cereal as protesters gathered outside, some carrying torches and masks. Staff and customers inside were intimidated and called the police.
The protest was organised by a group called Class War and was held to protest against gentrification and soaring house prices in the area. The protesters’ Facebook page described the protest as follows:
“Our communities are being ripped apart – by Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs. Local authorities are coining it in, in a short sighted race for cash by ‘regenerating’ social housing.
“We don’t want luxury flats that no-one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing. We don’t want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns – we want community. London is our home and worth defending against this onslaught of dog-eat-dog economics. Working class people are being forced out of our homes but we won’t go out without a fight. We will protest this economic warfare with a street party on September 26th.”
The Cereal Killer Cafe took to Twitter to defend themselves, calling the attack a hate crime. “We started a business to deliver an experience to cereal lovers, and have been thanked by local businesses for bringing tourists to the area,” the company stated.
The Cereal Killer Café received much media coverage upon its launch last December for its gimmicky menu of cereals from around the world served with different milks. It featured in a Channel 4 report where the brothers were asked about poverty in the area and demurred a reply. This could be why the Cereal Killer Café was targeted at the protest.
Shoreditch is home to trendy cafes and restaurants and expensive shops, who exist alongside the original vintage shops and Indian restaurants. However, the area is also home to many residents living in poverty. The borough of Tower Hamlets has a 49% child poverty rate and the lowest average borough wage in the UK. Developers are pushing rents up and evicting tenants to make way for new developments.
A nearby newly-opened Versace store and chains like Subway and Pret were untouched in the protest. Alan Keery told the Evening Standard that he and his brother Gary had started up a business out of nothing.
“The staff were absolutely terrified,” he said. “It was an angry mob throwing paint at the windows. They had torches and pigs’ heads. There were people shouting about gentrification and taking back east London. They’d brought cereal and they were throwing it at the shop.
“I think it’s an absolute joke, a bunch of people attacking us. We’re a small business. There’s other big chain places around Shoreditch. Me and my brother started a business out of absolutely nothing and we’re trying to grow it. We’re being targeted as the poster boys of gentrification and that’s not our fault.
“London as a city is growing and Shoreditch is no different. People are going to open businesses and try things and try to better themselves.
“I can’t agree with what they’re doing, the way they are dealing with gentrification,” he added. “It feels like it’s been taken back to the Dark Ages – an angry mob with fire, it’s a bit of a witch-hunt. There was paint thrown at the front and they tried to break the windows. They were trying to bash the door down and the customers had to barricade the door. We get a bit of hate on Twitter but never anything like this.”
The Keery twins spent 15 months working on their business venture, securing funding and premises and sourcing cereals from America, France, Australia, South Africa and South Korea before opening in December 2014.
The light bulb moment for the idea was sparked by a mid-afternoon craving for cereal and being unable to find any. “There is so much choice for eating out – pizza, Mexican, Chinese, sushi – and yet all I wanted that day was a bowl of cereal and I couldn’t get it,” Alan Keery told the Belfast Telegraph.
“The more we thought about it and talked about it, the more we thought it could work as a business. Once we decided to do it, that was it and we just went for it.”
Gentrification is the phrase coined to describe the phenomenon of rising housing costs forcing the working class from their traditional areas of residence. It’s the Keerys’ misfortune that their tiny shop has become a symbol of inequality in England’s capital city.