A downtown juice bar and cafe that was the subject of a social media firestorm last week was broken into on Sunday morning.
Thieves took more than $5,000 worth of electronics, cash and merchandise from Raleigh Raw on Hargett Street. The break-in happened Sunday between 3:54 and 5:14 a.m., according to a police report.
Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue said no arrests have been made.
Raleigh Raw owner Sherif Fouad said he thinks his business was targeted following online debate after Raleigh Raw posted something on Instagram that some thought was insensitive.
“We wanted to engage people, and I think that what we learned this weekend is that some issues are too heated to touch,” Fouad said.
Raleigh Raw, which has been using specialized equipment to make cold-pressed juice for about three years, opened its Hargett Street location in April. The shop sells juice, as well as items such as smoothies, matcha beverages (ground green tea), grab-and-go salads and snacks.
On Friday, the store’s social media account posted about people from a local group that came in to buy drinks for other customers and to pass out flowers. The post suggested that other people “don’t protest against what you hate ... instead promote what you love.”
Some took the post, which was later deleted, as criticism of last week’s protests in Charlotte that started after a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott. On social media, some commenters said they thought Fouad did not support the protests in Charlotte as a way to make change in the community.
After Sunday morning’s burglary, Fouad took to Facebook, pointing out that local writers Tina and Grayson Haver Currin, who both are active on social media, had been critical of his initial Instagram post. He said he did not think the Haver Currins were responsible for the robbery, but he did suggest that the social media fight could have inspired others to break into the store.
“They have managed to rally a large following of their misinformed devotes (sic) against us who most certainly are responsible,” Fouad’s Facebook post said.
He later deleted that post, too. He said he feared he would be perpetuating the social media firestorm.
“I don’t want to slam them down,” he said. “I want to take the higher road, and that’s why I pulled the post down.”
Grayson Haver Currin, who is the editor-in-chief of the Raleigh Agenda website, wrote on Fouad’s Facebook post, expressing his sorrow for the break-in and denying involvement. He also linked to several stories he had written about Raleigh Raw this year that were complimentary of the store.
“This is very confusing to me,” Currin said. “As you can probably guess, I’ve been in a lot of internet fights over the years, and this one stands out.”
Currin said he doesn’t think anyone has the right to tell others how to protest, but that his and others’ posts weren’t intended to make headlines, they were meant to start a conversation.
“As an activist, as an editor, as a journalist, I believe that things that bother you in this world should be called out unapologetically,” Currin told The N&O.
Currin also reiterated that he had nothing to do with the break-ins and strongly condemned the actions of those who did.
“I don’t really know anyone who I consider a friend who would do something like this honestly,” he said.
The thieves made off with an Apple laptop, three iPads, $553 in cash, and apparel sporting the shop’s logo.
Fouad said Raleigh Raw’s insurance policy does not cover theft, and he will have to purchase new equipment.
Police spokesman Sughrue said the case has been assigned to a detective for follow-up investigation. He declined to discuss evidence found at the scene or what the shop’s surveillance video showed.
Sughrue said anyone with information about the burglary is asked to call Raleigh CrimeStoppers at 919-834-4357 or visit raleighcrimestoppers.org.
Currin said he and Fouad met Monday evening to discuss their differences and agreed that in the future they would talk about their differences directly, instead of taking to social media.
“He understands that there have been threats made against us, and he regrets that,” Currin said. “We’re going to exculpate one another on Facebook.”
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi