Controversial talk at Warwick café canceled after protester ‘threats’, employees quit

WARWICK, R.I. (WLNE) – A group of demonstrators planned to show up to Brewed Awakenings in Warwick picketing a parent discussion on Wednesday night; that was canceled due to all the backlash.  Yet protesters – and an opposing group of counter protesters- still showed up.

The parent talk involved criticizing controversial diversity lessons, like critical race theory, and was called off by the café’s owner after receiving pushback online and with two employees quitting.  

“It’s unfortunate that you can’t have whatever side,” Dave Levesque, the owner of Brewed Awakenings said. “Right side, left side, someone be able to speak or have a meeting or discussion or talk and not have someone threaten.” 

Levesque told ABC6 News that multiple social media users posted about disrupting business at his Warwick location.  

“We’re gonna come picket the place, we’re gonna bring out friends,” Levesque said, while recounting the social media posts.  

Levesque deleted the comments, while dealing with a few employees leaving this week. 

“They had concerns of what was going to happen, the picketing, was it going to cause problems?” Levesque said. 

Even with the event called off, a self-described Rhode Island racial justice group posted on Facebook on Wednesday, saying in part: “Today’s the day” and “we’re looking forward to seeing folks there.”

“Everybody of course has their First Amendment right to speak and to share, you know, their thoughts on things. But I was disappointed in Brewed Awakenings that they had hosted this and that they were posting it on social media because that indicates support,” demonstrator Jennifer Lima said.

Waiting for the local racial justice group was a small crowd of counter-protesters, waving the American Flag, Canadian Flag, and Gadsden flag. Members of that counter-group expressed frustration that the business owner had to close its doors for the night, and agreed with the intended meeting’s viewpoint on Critical Race Theory. “It’s not acceptable..I mean, we never learned about that stuff,” says Nicholas Morrell, a Warwick resident. “C.R.T. used to be an elected course that you chose to take in college, and now it’s being taught in middle school.”

Tensions began to escalate quickly between the two groups, with members of Warwick Police Department including a K-9 remained on scene. The confrontation between the group lasted just over an hour.

Levesque said he typically doesn’t censor discussions held at his café, but there was just too much controversy brewing with Wednesday’s planned event. 

“Did I want to be bold and stand up and fight against them? I guess in one way I did, but it’s just not worth it,” Levesque said.  

A spokesperson for SURJ Rhode Island, Lindsay, issued the following statement Thursday morning:

“We are parents, teachers, students, and community members who came together to act in resistance to yesterday’s event because we believe that everyone deserves an honest education about race and that students of all identities, including people of color, linguistically diverse, queer, and trans folks should be supported and represented in school curricula. We are members of the TeachTruth coalition, a group of organizations and individuals, including, but not limited to Showing Up for Racial Justice, SURJ-RI. The goal of the action was to engage in a peaceful protest outside of the venue, and on public property, to demonstrate that we do not support the event’s goal of censoring accurate public education about the history of race in this country. No one was threatened; we were simply peacefully dissenting at Brewed Awakenings for hosting the event. Brewed Awakenings was planning to sponsor an event that promoted banning truthful public education about the history of race. The event’s speakers are part of a vocal minority who spread misinformation about critical race theory in order to ban teaching about topics they deem uncomfortable, including racism, sexism, and homophobia. We are working to defend antiracist teaching practices and promote inclusive and representative curricula, in public schools and beyond, that are healing, just, and liberating for all members of our communities. We oppose any legislation or policy at the federal, state, or local level that would restrict teaching historical truth or that would attempt to limit learners’ critical thinking abilities. We believe that banning conversations about race and its intersections with other identities and ignoring the full complexity of U.S. and world history is deception, not education. We live in a world where racial injustice isn’t just historic – it’s ongoing. Our bonds, as a society and as individuals, are built through honest dialogue. All people, including students, deserve to be presented with age-appropriate and accurate lessons on historical and contemporary truths that empower them to become critical thinkers, navigate their worlds, and create a more just future. We believe that a deep and nuanced knowledge of history (including the construction of race) helps all people understand the roots of the inequalities at work today. Students need to study not only a history of oppression, but also a history of how people have organized and created coalitions across race, class, and gender to move our country toward justice. This knowledge is empowering not only for students, but for everyone trying to learn from those who were here before us. The strategy to legislate away students’ rights to the truth is alarming not just to students, parents, and K-12 educators. It is part of a larger, multi-pronged approach to shift not only the nature of public education for children, but also to limit the community’s collective knowledge. The same groups working to ban students’ access to the truth in schools are now attacking public libraries, working to remove books, resources, and programming focused on diversity, equity, and justice. The event at Brewed Awakenings was called “What’s Wrong with Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic?” This title gives the false impression that these basic educational principles are in peril. This is simply not true. The reality is that schools, teachers, students, and community members who support teaching the truth are united in the goal of establishing a more just and inclusive curricula. It is crucial that we amplify and activate strong statewide opposition to the mythology and misinformation currently being circulated and come out in support of youth-led groups like the OurSchoolsPVD Coalition and their ethnic studies campaign. “Anti-CRT” attacks use fear to divide and distract us from addressing real problems as part of a broad, coordinated effort to thwart a multiracial democracy. These attacks are used as both cover and justification for the wave of voter suppression bills making their way through state legislatures across the country. Instead of supporting people after a devastating pandemic, groups like these are wasting time trying to ban conversations about systemic racism – conversations that would actually help us unite to solve our country’s biggest challenges. We showed up to defend a public education system that truly serves and supports all members of our community. We will continue to move in solidarity with youth leaders, parents, and educators in the movement for equitable, inclusive, and affirming curriculum, schools, and communities. We welcome all to join us.”

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island, Warwick