OK Cafe Owner: We’re Under Police Protection, Being Monitored by Homeland Security

'It seems that we have found our company in an unusual—and perhaps dangerous—situation' but 'if loving America is wrong—I don’t wanna be right,' Susan DeRose sent in an email to customers Saturday.

Susan DeRose, co-owner of Liberty House, the restaurant group behind OK Cafe, on Saturday sent an email to the company’s subscribers stating that both she and her husband Richard are “under police protection and OK Café is being monitored by Homeland Security.”

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The email, which is published in its entirety below, arrives nearly two weeks after DeRose hung a banner at OK Cafe amid Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests spurred by the in-police-custody-death of George Floyd that stated, “Lives That Matter Are Made With Positive Purpose.”

DeRose’s cryptic banner was met with swift backlash including an open letter penned by Kilpatrick Townsend’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer pleading with Atlantans to boycott Liberty House.

OK Cafe wasn’t the only Liberty House eatery with such a banner.

Nearby Blue Ridge Grill adorned a banner that stated, “Law & Order = Peace,” a message that has been tweeted multiple times by President Donald Trump in rebuke of otherwise peaceful BLM protests.

“The Department is not providing [DeRose] anything,” a spokesperson for the APD Saturday told What Now Atlanta (WNA) in an email.

“It is possible she is paying an off duty officer. Many businesses do.”

The U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security on Saturday did not immediately respond to WNA’s request for comment.

It seems that we have found our company in an unusual—and perhaps dangerous—situation. Richard & I have been under police protection and OK Café is being monitored by Homeland Security.

Wow! How did it get to this?

For those who know us, you’ll know that we are not here just to make money. For 41 years we’ve served up Southern hospitality and helped showcase and identify our Southern culture. Our aim was—and is—to make Atlanta a world-class city. Liberty House is part of the fabric of Atlanta.

Since we’ve never been attacked before, I’d like to make our position clear:

On June 7th, a few days after the destructive riots in our city center and throughout Buckhead, some people felt it right to organize a march down West Paces Ferry Road to “bring the people of Buckhead out from behind their screens” (the Marcher’s cry).

By June 7th, OK Café and Blue Ridge Grill had only reopened 4 days before and like all others in the shopping center, we weighed the dangers of looting or harm to our staff and customers, so we closed again. The marchers took over our parking lot anyways, so no customers could have parked. The marchers were mostly peaceful—that day.

For our part, we put up two signs at OK Café and served tea. As is our 1st amendment right to do. The banner read: “Lives that Matter Are Made with Positive Purpose.”

Blue Ridge Grill had a tent and served lemonade. Their sign read: “Law & Order = Peace,” and Marvin Gaye’s lyrics, “Picket lines and picket signs, don’t punish me with brutality, talk to me, so you can see, what’s going on.”

And lastly, a red, white, and blue sign draped the front of OK Café on Northside Parkway.
Loud and proud it read: “OK Café LOVES America.”

Since then we have received hundreds of negative reviews online. We have been told, kneel, or go out of business.

If loving America is wrong—I don’t wanna be right. And our great and mighty team stands with us on this point.

Susan DeRose
Liberty House Restaurant Corp.

Here’s our full coverage of OK Cafe’s banner situation in chronological order:

Caleb J. Spivak

Caleb J. Spivak

Caleb J. Spivak

Caleb J. Spivak

62 Responses

  1. One of the great things about this country is that we have the right to express our opinions– through the written/spoken word, art, music, and peaceful protests, etc.
    We absolutely don’t have the right to threaten, intimidate, or cause harm to a person or their property.
    All citizens need to believe that they won’t be unnecessarily targeted by police or any other part of the law enforcement/justice system (obviously that still needs quite a bit of work).
    Susan and Richard have been very outspoken with their opinions.
    With that comes consequences and responsibility.
    Their thoughts do not align with the popular/current movement in this country at the moment, so people are trying to silence and threaten them.
    That’s not right.
    You don’t like the message they’re sending? Fine, don’t spend your money there, and get out and vote!
    I don’t necessarily agree with their opinions, but I will stand up for their right to say it– and at the same time I will stand up for the rights of the people that are affected by systemic racism and police brutality, etc.
    I don’t know what’s happened to this country/world, but it’s become very toxic.
    Everybody needs to have a voice at the table, and this ‘us against them’ crap needs to end…
    When one side ‘wins,’ doesn’t mean the other side ‘loses.’
    Thoughtful and compassionate change, and human rights, should lift all of us up as a society.

      1. Well when your life and property are threatened, I’d say that makes you a victim.
        Freedom of speech shouldn’t make someone feel like a victim.

        1. If only the business owners whose lives and property were destroyed during the Tulsa massacre could’ve been afforded the protections these folks enjoy. Terribly sad.

        2. Actually, she sounds like the guy who shot his wife in the back from the backseat while driving in Midtown because of protests days earlier in Buckhead and something something Edgewood something BLM. Any freedoms of speech directed at her for her big freedom of speech sign and subsequent whining is her own fault, and no one is coming to hurt her. So, yeah, victim card.

          1. I have no idea what you were trying to say in the first half of your comment.

            Any freedoms of speech directed at her for her big freedom of speech sign and subsequent whining is her own fault

            — I totally agree. From a business perspective, I think it was a totally foolish thing she did. And I have said with freedom of speech comes responsibility and consequences.

            and no one is coming to hurt her. 

            — You sound pretty sure of yourself on that one. I’m not sure why the Department of Homeland Security would involve themselves if she hasn’t had justifiable physical threats against her and/or her business. But maybe that’s fake news?

            1. Susan’s words–

              I did it because threats against us were called in yesterday. The several calls said a march was planned next week to take down OK Cafe and burn the flag. They were considered credible threats and home security were monitoring.

            2. All I’m sure of is it sounds dubious. The guy who shot his wife used the excuse of supposed fear of BLM related protests to justify why he had a gun out and “accidentally” killed his wife (spoiler: it was a lie and he was convicted of murder). It sounds like the same fear-mongering and she is specifically concerned about talk of “a march”. The marches around town have been vastly peaceful. APD has said they were not providing city resources, and “monitored by DHS” seems different from “protected by”. Dubious.

              1. Yeah, I remember the guy that shot his wife.
                I guess the correlation with a BLM march didn’t register with me.
                As far as Susan, you might be right. People do weird stuff when they’re cornered.
                To be clear I’m not trying to stick up for, or make excuses for Susan’s
                commentary– but I believe she has the right, like anyone else, to speak her mind (whether we like what she says, or not).

      1. I’m might not say “evil,” but starting controversy (by, for instance, printing out a huge political banner) and then playing the victim card when people react is pretty universally considered a low-life move.

        1. I think calling her ‘evil’ is a bit dramatic.
          There are so many people/governments/hate groups/drug cartels out there that are
          truly evil.
          It’s quite possible that she’s playing the victim (also dramatic), and it’s also possible that she has had physical threats against her and her property.
          It was a stupid move on her part, but physically threatening someone for being stupid, or a low-life is totally wrong.
          Honestly the whole thing seems kinda like ‘small town’ drama– that she totally created.
          Not sure what she thought she was going to accomplish by all of this, but I support her right/freedom to voice her opinion– as foolish and unaware as it may be.

  2. She’s exaggerating and definitely playing the victim! I was there for the June 7 march and the parking lot wasn’t blocked, and there were plenty of remaining places for any customers to park; the parking lot is HUGE! Yes, people parked their cars at the shopping center, but for her to say the lot was blocked is a complete lie! I overheard a few Publix managers say it was a lot of cars in the lot, but there is still room for actual customers to shop if need be Once the marchers arrived back to the shopping center approx 45-60 min later, everyone pretty much left immediately.

    She does have a right to express her first amendment rights, however, she also has a right to get all the smoke that comes along with expressing it (non violently).

  3. Maybe I’m missing something, but the above letter does not articulate a single illegal threat made against this restaurant group.
    All I hear is that people are expressing disgust with Susan DeRose’s repeated displays of racism at her restaurants. People posting on public websites that they won’t be eating at your restaurants or giving their opinions of those restaurants are not threats. People expressing disgust with your point of view is simply that First Amendment thing that DeRose is in favor of, except when she isn’t. Worries about what rallies “could” lead to are not credible threats and no one is going to give DeRose police protection for that.
    As for the letter, DeRose — wallowing in her White Privilege — continues not to see that anything she did or said was racist or that reasonable people would perceive as racist. Instead, she offers excuse after excuse, and rationalizes her actions. Here’s the deal, folks, our perceptions of our own actions are often royally wrong.
    Susan DeRose, if you feel victimized because you were called out on your racist actions, maybe you need to listen a little more closely to other voices than the one in your head. Maybe you need to educate yourself about what racism is. Maybe you need to try a little self-reflecting about how you were raised and what you believe, even your unconscious beliefs, and examine what you have done in a less narrow framework than your limited world view. Maybe, just maybe, if you do these things, you will understand how you are the oppressor and not the victim in this scenario. Meanwhile, if your businesses suffer as anti-racists choose not to visit, it is only a natural consequence of your own actions.

  4. Your “OK Cafe Loves America” sign makes me happy every time I drive by. Thank you for standing strong and helping to maintain cuisine that I actually cannot get anyplace else.

  5. I have always wondered why there was a giant confederate flag in the dining room. So offensive to many customers. I guess I have to remember we are in the south. What I can’t understand is they have African American employees that have worked there longer than the short 4 years the confederacy Existed in American history and they wouldn’t have more respect for the people around them. Racism and bigotry is so wrong on many levels

    1. Judith, it was not a giant Confederate flag.
      It was an artistic representation of the old Georgia state flag (which indeed included the stars and bars).
      OK Cafe C0-Owner Susan DeRose Friday had staff remove the controversial Georgia flag art that has adorned the restaurant’s dining room for more than 30 years.
      If you’re going to judge, at least get the facts right…

      1. Yeah…and since you know so much about it I guess you know the “in your face” group Susan is going to send when some dumb backwoods redneck with inherited money buys that POS art. AMIRITE?

        1. I’m not claiming to know so much about it, but there is a giant picture of the flag being removed from the wall.
          I’m not going to make any assumptions on who’s going to buy it– I don’t really care about that.

      2. Just to clarify, the prior Georgia flag included the Confederate battle flag, not the Stars an Bars. Ironically, the current state flag incorporates the actual Stars and Bars.

        1. Just to clarify…that disgraceful flag was created as a result to desegregation laws. It has nothing to do with any “history and heritage”….google when that flag came about.

    1. She didn’t just “serve” tea….she had a table with a banner proclaiming “Tea Party.”

      Yes, and it’s pretty obvious, that politically, she identifies with the extreme right.
      The extreme left has “the Squad.”
      People can choose to identify with either of those groups…

      1. If you think “The Squad” is anything close to “Extreme Left” then you have no idea what the spread in left-wing politics actually looks like. The Squad is barely center-left almost anywhere in the world.

        1. Same could be said about the Tea Party I suppose.
          They’re not exactly the most extreme right wing group in the world.

          1. Not sure I agree about the TP. Dig a little and you might find they largely support some pretty far-right positions, and recall it was formed moments after a certain President was elected and before any real legislative action was even begun, for the sole purpose of total lack of compromise. We’ve just become a little too accustomed to being over-represented by a very conservative minority making a 40% position (maybe less) seem closer to “the middle” than it is.

  6. Remember when people use to go to Aunt Fannie’s Cabin and thought that was OK? May Liberty House’s restaurants follow their lead.

    1. Never heard of Aunt Fanny’s, so I had to Google it.
      Turns out Blacks, as well as Jimmy Carter, frequented the place.
      That was a very different time (not condoning it)– thankfully we have moved on from that.
      Maybe not a lot, but we’ve still moved on.

      1. OMG….your reply is just ignorant and sad. Hey IP since 1987! that’s the same year that OK Cafe started.

        1. Ignorant, how so?
          I’m sure a lot of things happened in 1987. Not sure what connection you’re trying to make.

            1. Go away, you’re just trolling at this point.
              I’m moving on, maybe you should too.
              This whole topic has received way more attention than it’s worth.

  7. Well you actually put thought into buying banners to put up on the day these protesters were marching ? Bye Ms DeRose.

  8. The comment that I don’t understand is “No one else was fighting back so I decided to”. My question is fighting back against what? – against people demanding equal status as American citizens? – people protesting being murdered in the streets by law enforcement, against people bringing to light the fact that 400 years of oppression didn’t magically evaporate in the relatively small number of years since overt racism has been outlawed?

    1. “No one else was fighting back so I decided to”

      Not sure where you pulled that quote from, maybe I missed it– context is pretty important.
      However, it seems her initial motivation was the looting and destruction of small businesses that took place during/after the protests.
      Her words–

      As an independent who is not afraid to speak out, we stand to say—protect small businesses—stop looting and burning us down.

      1. There have been protests going on everyday this month by thousands of people meanwhile looting occurred at the beginning of the month by a few people. Why are you so obsessed with bringing up looting?

        1. I am simply pointing out what Susan said was her motivation.
          I hardly think that makes me obsessed with looting.

  9. Everyone is entitled to have an opinion and to state it. The main problem in this situation is the hypocrisy and hidden messages within Susan’s supposed “positive”message. Susan was not merely standing up for small businesses and “innocently stating her opinion” with her banner as she claims. She was making a point by even putting the banner up that she was against BLM. She could have easliy said we are in support of BLM but we do not support looting or breaking the law and hurting small businesses. Her treating the peaceful protestors as looters and criminals is another example of her racism. Not every white person is a member of the KKK, nor is every supporter of BLM is a looter as she would like people to think. Even the children at the march were disheartened by the banner and knew what she really meant by her actions. Children who have eaten there for years, but who wanted to support racial equality were disheartened and sad. Susan knew exactly what she was doing the day of the peaceful march. Because she is racist and full of spite, she poked the bear, all under the guise of “standing up for small businesses.” The group of protestors that went by her restaurants were NOT looters and criminals. They were children, parents, husbands and wives, black and mostly white people, many of whom are very well edcuacted and successful in small business, the medical, and law professions….MANY OF WHOM HAVE SUPPORTED HER BUSINESS FOR YEARS!!!!!! To fain fear now is all a product of her own doing. Remember the expression,” If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.” Susan didn’t need to say anything at all the day of the march, especially because many were her clientele. She could have kept the peace by staying quiet. She was also mocking and jeering at the kids. Why? What has that got to do with small business. If her goal was to support small businesses, she could have found a much better way to do it and at a different time.
    Finally, to act like she was innocently serving refreshments under a tent marked TEA PARTY is another smoke and mirror for her racism. Although the South, defined as the 11 states of the former Confederacy, constitutes only 31 percent of the American population, it is home to 56 percent of Tea Party members nationally. 
    And the Southern Tea Party is a different beast from the Northern Tea Party. The most striking finding in that 2012 data is that racism significantly predicts Tea Party membership in the South — and not just any kind of racism but “old-fashioned racism.” A high old-fashioned racism score means a respondent is willing to say on a survey that African Americans are lazy, untrustworthy, and unintelligent on a 7-point scale (meaning there is plenty of room for neutrality, room to hide one’s views).
    Given today’s social norms, only the most defiant, the most willing to embrace racial stereotypes, will admit such prejudice, so researchers had in recent years largely abandoned such questions in favor of subtler measures of racial resentment (including, for instance, a strong denial of institutional racism). But anti-Obama sentiment among whites has brought old-fashioned racism back into the public arena, and the Tea Party in the South gave it a home.
    Naturally, racism is far from the whole story of even the Southern Tea Party. Tea Partiers nationally viewed the stimulus package, spending on unemployment benefits, and the size of the budget deficit with more alarm than other Americans. Yet both nationally and in the South, the most significant predictor of Tea Party membership is disapproval of President Obama.
    There are, of course, many reasons beyond racism that respondents could disapprove of Obama, including partisanship and ideological differences. Yet in the South, the dovetailing of racist sentiment and intense disdain for the nation’s first black president makes it hard to conclude that the Southern Tea Party is not substantially shaped by racial animus.
    The history of slavery and Jim Crow, along with the longstanding tendency of white Southerners to define themselves racially as “us versus them” made the racist side of the Tea Party’s anti-Obama spirit all the more attractive.
    The Southern Tea Party has other distinctive demographic features that set it apart from its cousin beyond the Mason-Dixon Line. Tea Party members in the South are younger, less educated, and more likely to be women.
    None of these differences are all that surprising to those who study the region and who know that white Southern women are as conservative as white Southern men (if not more so in some cases), and that the passage of generations have not necessarily eroded Southern racism, particularly in pockets of the region that remain segregated. And sadly, not in Atlanta…as Susan knows.

  10. Ms. DeRose’s email to “Liberty House Restaurant Friends.” Ms. DeRose’s message makes clear that she has no interest in understanding the conditions that have brought us to the current protests and no interest in seeing a change in the status quo. Ms. DeRose’s position, while unfortunate, is unsurprising. There is an old adage that you should not argue with fools because people from a distance cannot tell the difference. Accordingly, I will not be sending another open letter to Ms. DeRose. Rather, I will direct my energies towards the reasonable, open-minded people of Atlanta.
    For the most part, there are two Americas. The America that Ms. DeRose lives in and the one to which many Black people bear witness daily. In our America, we pray daily that our loved ones don’t succumb to the violence that so often accompanies racism and the widespread fear of their skin color. In our America, we are burdened with making others feel comfortable with our very existence. In our America, we have to plead for our lives to have value and our humanity to be seen. In our America, we have to have “the talk” with our sons and daughters in the hopes that it will prevent them from being gunned down while jogging, while eating ice cream in their living rooms, while playing video games in their houses, while sleeping in their beds, etc. In our America, we have to remind people that Black Lives Matter. There should not be two Americas. We should have one America that lives up to its promises and ideals for all of its citizens. 
    Ms. DeRose has chosen to remain ignorant of the plight of Black people in this country. Ms. DeRose’s choice is willful because I, and others, have attempted to inform her of the reasons for the protests and for the appeal that our lives matter. Not only has Ms. DeRose been willfully ignorant, she has been vocally hostile to our efforts to obtain equality. Ms. DeRose posted intentionally antagonistic banners in response to a completely (not just mostly) peaceful protest march that started, not in the parking lot of OK Café (as she asserts) but in the parking lot of the shopping center generally. Further, when presented with the harmful impact of her banners, she circulated propaganda to suggest that violence had somehow been directed at her building. In addition, she sent the below email falsely suggesting that she had been assigned police protection in response to threats against her life. Ms. DeRose is so hostile to justice and equality that she is willing to lie in an effort to thwart it. 
    Similarly, she has chosen to intentionally mischaracterize the response to her prior interviews and actions. Ms. DeRose contends that “We have been told, kneel or go out of business.” That has never been the message. Indeed, to whom or to what would she be kneeling? The message is stop fighting progress, stop rejecting equality for all, stop promoting division, stop advocating for two Americas. The message is, if you truly love America, please stop trying to keep it from reaching its fullest potential. 
    Until Ms. DeRose stops doing these things, I will not be supporting any of her businesses. And I hope that all equality-, justice-, and freedom-loving Americans, will do the same. A mass exodus from her “Liberty House Restaurant Friends” listserv will send a message. And a sustained economic protest of her hostile opposition to progress by refusing to visit any of her restaurants will send a stronger one. My hope is that you choose to do both and encourage the same of your networks.

  11. Well, at least these restaurants quoted 2 R&B songs from the past – “What’s Going On” and “If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right.”

  12. Great that these diner owners believe they have the know how to quality what lives matter. In a bad spot, don’t bother turning your life around, cause your life doesn’t even matter. What a joke, shows how intelligent they are.

  13. Wow… they are really trying to milk the publicity/sympathy card! Literally trolling the community to rile up its racists sympathizer customers and then playing victim. Ask 99.9% of BLM protestors in ATL and they’ll tell you they’ve never heard of this place or it’s race-baiting agitator owner’s. Your Children See Your Hypocrisy… that is why they are joining us in the streets to reject your evil ideology! #ChangeIsTheOneTrueConstant #WeAreOneRace #Humanity #BLM ✊

  14. i agree with the owner FED UP WITH THIS BLM bull–what about all lives-or native americans or hawaii people etc blm are a recist terro group-lookmat damage they done and killed yes KILLED but the idiots helping them seem to forget its about getting together peace etc–one thing blAack lives matter has never ever been—the owner or idiot is worth a fortune now–nut t be great when it turns out HE IS WHITE RACIST KKK MEMBER BLM KILL IF YOU WANT ANOTHER CIVIL WAR IN THE WORLD- I SAY COME ON THEN–MOST BLM CANR DO OUT ON OWN ALWATS LIKETYPICAL COWARDS IN A GROUP–SCUM PS GEORGE FLOYD WAS A CRIMINAL ETC-HE WAS NOT INNOCENT – MORANS

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