Political polarization sparks confrontation at Starbucks, triggering online fury

On social media, woman tries to 'dox' MAGA-hat-wearing man, becomes target of 'doxing' herself

In the latest example of social-media fueled extremism, a heated confrontation over politics in a Palo Alto Starbucks on Monday has gone viral nationwide, leading to reported death threats and also calls for greater dialogue and empathy.

It began when Palo Alto resident Rebecca Parker Mankey attempted to shame an elderly white man wearing a red Make America Great Again hat as he sat in the coffeehouse — an encounter she later wrote about on social media. Calling him a "hater of brown people," Mankey said she yelled at him and addressed Starbucks customers and employees to join her in her effort. She said she left the store but soon returned and continued to yell at him. Mankey said she was "heartbroken" that other white people didn't stand up against the man wearing what has become for some a symbol of hate. She followed him out of the store to the parking lot, where she continued to berate and swear at him.

She called the man "Nazi scum" and threatened to post pictures of him on social media, which she then did, along with her version of the incident on her Facebook page and on Twitter. She asked the public for help finding him — "I want him to have nowhere to hide," she wrote -- a practice called "doxing," or posting personal contact information to encourage threats and harassment.

The incident has had repercussions not only for Mankey, who said on Tuesday she's received death threats and was fired from her job as an accountant, but also for her former employer, Gryphon Stringed Instruments. Staff at the store said they were inundated with angry phone calls and emails Monday and Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the 74-year-old Palo Alto man in the MAGA hat, who is Jewish, told the Palo Alto Weekly that he is not afraid of the woman. Rather, he said, her actions are an example of the lack of discourse in the country over differing viewpoints. He said he has seen her description of the incident and that it was accurate. (The man's name is being withheld as he did not harass anyone.)

Mankey, who is an appointed member of Palo Alto's North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan Working Group and co-chairs the Bayshore Progressive Democrats, a relatively new progressive club addressing social-justice issues, exhorted people to confront the man if they see him wearing the red cap.

"You do not want to be the person who didn't speak up as we slipped into fascism," she posted.

On Twitter, she said: "I am going to publicly shame him in town and try to get him fired and kicked out of every club he is in. I am going to go to his house march up and down carrying a sign that says he hates black people. I am going to organize protests where he works to make him feel as unsafe as he made every brown person he met today."

The postings drew criticism on right-wing and other websites, with comments coming from far away. A woman from the Midwest with the Twitter handle @RightHookUSA responded by contacting Mankey's husband's employer and the Palo Alto Police Department.

"I was extremely disturbed when I learned that an elderly man was being humiliated and harassed in public by a vicious bully," the woman, named Amy, said in an email to the Weekly. "I hope and pray that this incident leads to greater tolerance and respect among all Americans, instead of greater hatred and rage."

She declined to provide her last name because she said she received hateful messages for supporting the man.

Matt Lynch, retail manager at Gryphon Stringed Instruments, said the store has also been caught up in the politically fueled maelstrom. The business received many emails and phone calls Monday and Tuesday about Mankey's comments. People from all over the world have been posting negative Yelp reviews about the store — people who have never been customers, he added.

"It's been a tough day," he said, wearily. "What she said in no way reflects Gryphon or how the company feels." He added that "100 percent" of the calls have been against what Mankey said.

Mankey had worked for the company for four years. She is no longer employed there, he said.

"It's a big shock to us," he said.

In a statement posted on the Gryphon Facebook page, the company said:

"Gryphon does not believe anyone should be harassed or subject to hate speech no matter their beliefs. Music has historically been something that has brought people of diverse socio-political backgrounds together.

"We would like to make it clear that the opinions expressed and actions taken by the employee are not indicative of how we conduct ourselves at the shop and we hope we can continue to serve our customers across the country respectfully and universally as we have done for nearly 50 years."

The man in the MAGA hat told the Weekly that he goes to Starbucks every day. When Mankey, whom he did not know, approached and began questioning him about his hat, he thought she was going to talk to him about politics, a common occurrence, but instead, she lit into him right away.

He said he was not really cognizant that she had called him a "hater of brown people" or that she likened him to a Nazi. She was "raving," he said, and he wasn't focused on her words.

She told him she wanted him to call the police because then she would learn his name and where he lived, his wife's name and where his children had attended school, her Facebook post states.

He was surprised that no one said anything to stop the woman or come to his aid.

"It would've been touching," he said.

He wears the MAGA hat regularly, he said, but he never sees anyone else wearing one. Almost everyone who approaches him tells him they want to wear the hats but are worried about repercussions.

"There's a fear in the air," he said of people who support President Donald Trump. "I hope this doesn't start a trend of people getting in your face."

He denied that the hat, which for some people has come to symbolize hatred, racism and division, represents those ideas.

"Let me ask you: The phrase Make America Great — is there anything negative in it? In the 1952 election, people wore 'I Like Ike' buttons, but no one saw it as a threat," he said.

"Saying that a hat is pro-Trump or pro-American is absurd. There has always been a picture of the president and the postmaster in the post office. Are we saying now that putting a picture of this president up is considered a provocation?

"What's happened around here is that people get the idea that if you're for Trump you are an evil person," he said.

He bemoaned the loss of civil discourse over politics and says no one has approached him to have a reasonable debate.

"There is no intelligent dialogue. People watch right-wing websites and left-wing websites," he said of people gravitating to extremes. "There's no intelligent discussion at all. There used to be some sense of two political parties."

He said he would continue to wear his MAGA hat in public as an exercise of his freedom of speech — "until North Korea (or another totalitarian regime) takes over our government."

And he will continue to go out for his coffee.

"I'm joking, but I hope the next time at Starbucks there will be 30 people wearing red hats and like in the movies, they'll give me a slow clap."

Mankey said in an email that she and her family are receiving death threats and other threats of harm. She declined to comment further.

Margaret Okuzumi, who co-chairs the Bayshore Progressive Democrats with Mankey, expressed concern for Mankey and her family, saying they were doxed Tuesday on right-wing social media and internet channels. (Doxing is illegal, and various message boards have taken down threads about the incident and warned that posters who dox will be banned.)

In a statement from the organization, Okuzumi said: "We live in highly polarized times due to nearly unprecedented levels of economic inequality and the struggles of many to obtain basic necessities of life such as housing or healthcare. The President of the U.S. has contributed to an atmosphere that encourages open hatred and scapegoating of brown people for this structural inequality, causing many to live in fear.

"Parker felt strongly that she wanted to use her privilege as a white woman to stand up for those who are living in fear because of the hateful atmosphere fostered by Trump. Unfortunately the manner in which she chose to stand up against a slogan that stands for racism led to an even stronger hateful response that has endangered her and her family."

She added that the organization encourages nonviolent engagement to change the minds of racists.

"Parker's actions did not follow these principles and do not reflect our organization's political philosophy and approach. We regret how her actions have further reverberated and sundered human connection in the community at-large. And we condemn those who have threatened her and her family with bodily harm.

"We call upon community members to learn from this incident, to study the principles of nonviolent resistance and to teach ways to call attention to injustice while also encouraging reconciliation. It is the only way that we will ultimately succeed in creating a world that works for everyone."

Steven Lee, who serves on the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission, knows Mankey, calling her "beloved by many in our community for her progressive activism, myself included."

In an email expressing his own opinion and not that of the commission, he recalled former First Lady Michelle Obama's warning not to be dragged down into the mud of bad behavior. "We've got to go high," Obama said.

"This week in Palo Alto," Lee said, "one of our neighbors ... allowed herself to be pulled down into that muck when she encountered a man wearing a MAGA hat at a Palo Alto Starbucks and chased him out of the store.

"Let me be clear. The MAGA hat at its best represents a distorted and inaccurate view of America, its history, and its place in the world, and, at its worst, is a symbol of hate and everything that is wrong with America today."

But, he added, "We must resist sinking down to their level. We must hold out our hand and help pull them out of the muck."

He added that people must be both vigilant and civil.

"That is the hardest, most courageous form of resistance -- the resistance of Ghandi, of Dr. King -- a resistance based in empathy and committed not to a duel between our lesser demons but rather a meeting of our better angels. That is the resistance we must strive for and the one I know we have within us."

When asked for comment Tuesday, the manager of the Starbucks refused to speak with a reporter.

Related article:

A San Mateo restaurant banned MAGA hats. But should they? Peninsula chefs weigh in.

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32 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Apr 3, 2019 at 11:37 am

While I have significant policy differences with President Trump, my biggest problem with him is his incivility. The toxic atmosphere in politics means little discussion of actual policy seems to take place anymore between opposing sides; it's all about smearing the other side. I don't really understand why this isn't more of a problem with Trump's supporters, and I guess I never will. However, as tempting as it may be to some people, addressing incivility with incivility only reinforces it. This lady should understand she only added fuel to the fire. In the minds of some people, she only reinforced the notion that people who oppose Trump tend to be hostile extremists. I want government to be boring and reasonable again.

85 people like this
Posted by MAGA, always greater
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 3, 2019 at 12:00 pm

I've had much discourse with MAGA-clad supporters - always interesting.

The question they always fail to answer for me: when did America become NOT great? What date? We used to be great, according to your logo - what day did that change for you?

It usually becomes uncivil at that point, alas.

Civility, please.

30 people like this
Posted by NoFascism
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Apr 3, 2019 at 12:53 pm

This is a scary article. It sound like the Fascism that we are in danger of succumbing to is the Fascism of Politically Correct Group Think where there is no such thing as an honest disagreement without one side or the other being labelled as evil.

I'm not a Trump supporter by any means, but honestly, the idea that there can be no dissenting views or discussion allowed is more scary to me than Trump's seemingly wrong-headed policies.

15 people like this
Posted by gordyvon
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2019 at 1:21 pm

One word to the vigilante: Institutionalization...

35 people like this
Posted by stan
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Apr 3, 2019 at 2:05 pm

It would appear that Ms Mankey has taken a page out of Hitler's guide book on using the likes of the Sturmabteilung, literally Storm Detachment, to use violence to reinforce the liberal idealism of the Bayshore Progressive Democrats. When civil dialog breaks down it provides a breeding ground for anarchy and extremism. Those that provide only mild lip service to disowning this behavior are treading a slippery slope towards creating more of that which they profess to detest.

37 people like this
Posted by Emerson Swan
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 3, 2019 at 2:06 pm

The only fascist behavior I see in the thread is the person who called the man wearing the MAGA apparel fascist.

I believe her behavior, as reported, crosses the line of assault. Was she charged?

Hey, I like almost nothing about Trump. But I despise polarized slogan shouting in all forms. If a person cannot sit calmly and explore positions, they are not having a desicussion. They are not making an argument. It is worthless. More than that, it has a very negative value. Shameful behavior.

If I could make it a crime, I would. And the sentence would be feeding each other's family for a month, and eating together. If anybody gets angry, no desert. Let the kids negotiate peace.

12 people like this
Posted by Walter Paulsen
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Apr 3, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Walter Paulsen is a registered user.

It's vigilante purists like this lady that contribute to the breakdown of civil society. I'm strongly opposed to Trump's policies and vulgar tactics, but the right approach is to follow the lead of Speaker Pelosi and be resolute in supporting progressive values, without dropping into the gutter of name calling and denying facts. It's hard to remember it at times like this, but like MLK jr. once said, "the arc of the moral universe may be long, but it curves towards justice."

6 people like this
Posted by Jane Gill
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 3, 2019 at 2:19 pm

[Post removed; stick to the subject.]

27 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 3, 2019 at 3:46 pm

As my mother told me, “it’s easy to be nice to people you like, but how you treat people that don’t agree with your point of view tells the world what you are really like.” Ms. Mankey may be nice to her friends, but is an angry lady. There are so many ways to handle a point of view different from how you see the world. This is not one of them.

11 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2019 at 3:52 pm

74 is not elderly, 80 maybe, but not 74.

31 people like this
Posted by jack wray
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2019 at 4:08 pm

jack wray is a registered user.

Who’s actions in this pitiful assault represent hateful, bigoted behavior? Try looking in the mirror, ms Mankey.

12 people like this
Posted by Hillsider
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Apr 3, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Why am I not surprised this happened in Palo Alto. Middle class conflict at its ugliest

24 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2019 at 4:36 pm

pearl is a registered user.

Politics aside, if I were this man, I would make the Palo Alto Police Department aware of this incident and Mrs. Mankey's threats.

50 people like this
Posted by I Was There
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 3, 2019 at 5:28 pm

I witnessed this event. Mankey was loud, obnoxious, and was moving toward the man in a very aggressive manner. At first it was difficult to figure out what was going on but it quickly became obvious that she was out of control and in a rage against this older man, who was just enjoying his quiet time. I think it likely that no one intervened because she was very scary, and physical violence was at less possible. When I read that she had lost her job I thought about how difficult it would be to share an office with someone so intolerant and angry that she would take her rage out on someone who is very entitled to his own beliefs.

15 people like this
Posted by Sigh...
a resident of Woodside: Skywood/Skylonda
on Apr 3, 2019 at 9:50 pm

Make Mankey Human Again!

If “MAGA” bothers you, just imagine it stands for “Make America Grateful Again.”

47 people like this
Posted by MAGA, always greater
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 4, 2019 at 8:27 am

"We used to be great, according to your logo - what day did that change for you?"

Sigh, I guess I'll never get an answer.

Had a great discussion over dinner the other night with some old friends from the polar opposite end of the political spectrum - we all bemoaned that folks won't sit down and break bread, the best way to understand each other.

21 people like this
Posted by Sick of it all
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Hills
on Apr 4, 2019 at 11:02 am

The fact that no one said anything to Mankey while she went off on her rant speaks volumes about the folks in that coffee shop and Palo Alto. If you remained silent, you condone that type of discourse in public. Question - If someone had gone off on a Hilary/Obama/Sanders/Warren/Booker et al, would you have remained silent? I suspect not. You're hypocrites. Wealthy, ivory tower hypocrites.

8 people like this
Posted by I Was There
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 4, 2019 at 12:34 pm

To Sick of It All: You were not there. It was a volatile situation and could have easily led to violence had anyone confronted her. Don't assume everyone was siding with her as that is simply not true. Intolerance on either side is not a good thing. Look in the mirror.

25 people like this
Posted by John Ullom
a resident of another community
on Apr 4, 2019 at 12:37 pm

I don't get Trump or Trump supporters but people like Mankey are as scary as people like Alex Jones.

8 people like this
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 4, 2019 at 1:43 pm

henry fox is a registered user.

Glad to see this discussion.
I met a gentleman on Sunday who had recently moved here from NYC. He describe us as liberal fascists and, because of our nimbyism, hyper hypocrites.

41 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 4, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Did you suggest to him that perhaps he would be happier moving back to NYC?

18 people like this
Posted by MAGA, always greater
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Apr 5, 2019 at 7:13 am

" He describe us as liberal fascists"

That's exactly the guy I would hope could answer: when did America become not great?

1860? (1864?)

"liberal fascists" is a phrase that implies he's just the guy to ask, no?

8 people like this
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2019 at 8:29 am

henry fox is a registered user.

I showed your comment to the gentleman from NYC who called us liberal fascists and hypocrits. He said that your comment, that I should go back to NYC, proves his point.

47 people like this
Posted by MAGA
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 5, 2019 at 9:15 am

A young white man wearing a MAGA hat was just arrested in San Francisco for using a sword to try to cut off the hand of another man. Where is the right wing outrage for this terrorist act? Newspaper report: Web Link

A few days ago, a white woman working at a gas station in San Jose was caught on video yelling "build the wall" at a Spanish-speaking customer. ABC News has the video. Any comment from the right wing national media? Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by Brooklyn
a resident of Atherton: other
on Apr 5, 2019 at 9:46 am


What does your buddy say about a date for when America ceased being great?

MAGA seems like an unpatriotic phrase, to me.

6 people like this
Posted by Awayback
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2019 at 12:55 pm

Few people notice how anti-American MAGA really is... America *IS* great, not *was* great.

Clearly a Putin plot.


3 people like this
Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 5, 2019 at 3:37 pm

henry fox is a registered user.

My friend does not support Trump.
But he has been shut down when not towing the liberal line here.
And sees lots of not-so-liberal nimbyism.
It's a view from outside the Valley which is worth examining, not belittling.

2 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2019 at 4:27 pm

Henry. I didn't say he should go back, only asked if he would be happier, a simple conern for his well being. He's welcome to stay here as long as he likes, complaints and all.

13 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 5, 2019 at 4:36 pm

Henry, btw a "gentleman" would not call folks fascists for being liberals
Now the "mohawk" lady who started all this could quite accurately be described as a fanatic fascist whatever.

4 people like this
Posted by John Ullom
a resident of another community
on Apr 5, 2019 at 4:50 pm

America has gone crazy: -- Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by Video!
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Someone post the video of the incident!!! This would go viral so quickly

27 people like this
Posted by Jobs are great
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Apr 6, 2019 at 12:54 pm

If I remember correctly, Trump was referring to jobs, specifically manufacturing jobs, when he said he wanted to make America great again (ie bring manufacturing jobs back to America). As for a date, Clinton signed EO 12850 (widely credited with sending millions of manufacturing jobs overseas) in 1993. Prior to the influx of cheap imports, many equated the quality of American made products with greatness.

7 people like this
Posted by mper
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 6, 2019 at 6:35 pm

This woman is not well.

2 people like this
Posted by pearl
a resident of another community
on Apr 6, 2019 at 8:04 pm

pearl is a registered user.

See man interviewed here:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Mott El Marri
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 6, 2019 at 8:13 pm

"If I remember correctly, Trump was referring to jobs"

No. I can't find that statement.

And if it was jobs, Trump Org wouldn't bring in so many foreign visa workers for their properties. And made their products in China.


5 people like this
Posted by isaidso
a resident of Woodside School
on Apr 8, 2019 at 2:08 pm

No one can make you behave or misbehave. As an adult, you and only you are in full control of how you treat people. I don't care what clothing advertises. If it makes you mad - find a way to control your petty anger and please stop blaming hats and t-shirts. Deal or find a therapist to help control your anger. There is nothing right or okay with the way you treat people that have voted differently than you.

[Portion removed; stick to the topic]

7 people like this
Posted by isaidso
a resident of Woodside School
on Apr 8, 2019 at 2:47 pm

pretty amazing the almanac removes anything negative about hillary but will allow negative statements about President Trump to remain on this thread. almanac controls what it wants its readers to see!

shameful reporting and controlling of what people read. the editors of this real estate advertising rag are part of the hate problem.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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