The owners of The Coronado — a restaurant in central Phoenix — held a fundraiser the day after Thanksgiving to benefit the people protesting the Northern Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. They raised an estimated $3,000 for the cause, and in response, people from all over the U.S. have been raising hell on The Coronado’s Facebook page, leaving negative comments and one-star reviews for the vegetarian restaurant, despite likely never having been anywhere near the place.
Charity drives aren’t unusual around the holidays, and they’re not unusual for The Coronado, which has hosted other fundraisers for a variety of causes from animal rescue groups to the Northern Arizona Forest Fund. But Liam Murtagh, chef and co-owner of The Coronado, says he knew the Standing Rock protests were “a bit more of a contentious issue” when he and general manager John Tavarez announced on Facebook the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving that all proceeds from food sold the following Friday would be donated to Standing Rock support groups.
The fundraiser drew more than 200 people to The Coronado throughout the day. Tavarez says people were standing in lines that wrapped around the side of the building and waiting 45 minutes to place their orders. Many people brought items to donate to the activists at Standing Rock, including blankets, socks, and even bulletproof vests.
Murtagh says this was The Coronado’s biggest fundraiser ever.
“All weekend, we’ve had people coming in and saying they want to contribute and how can they do it,” he says. “We’re keeping it open on our end, and we’re channeling the money to two different places – the medic clinic portion, and the legal defense fund.”
But not everyone supports the cause. Within two days of the fundraiser (which drew national coverage on Fox News), The Coronado received 39 one-star reviews on its Facebook page, mostly from people who live in North Dakota, according to their Facebook profiles. Some of the comments from people who said they live in North Dakota attacked the quality of The Coronado’s food and service, but made no mention of politics: “worst food and service I have ever received anywhere,” wrote Aryn Fry. “Terrible food!!!! I get just sick thinking about it and will never go again and DO NOT recommend it for anyone!!!” wrote Denise Hanse). Larry Allee claimed he found a fingernail in his food.
Many of the comments accompanying the single-star reviews addressed the Standing Rock fundraiser:
“Horrible people and horrible morals and ethics,” another North Dakota resident, Justin Walter, commented. “Will never go there. Too many liberal hippies period [sic].”
“Worst place ever!!! Supporters of domestic terriosm [sic]! DO NOT CONTRIBUTE TO!!!!” somebody using the name “Wen Dee” wrote. “I’m sure there is a POPOS down the street somewhere WAY BETTER FOOD!”
“Terrorist supporters should be treated the same as the terrorists,” Bill Brazell commented.
“Good place for misinformed hippies but that’s not saying much,” wrote Bill Baumgartner.
“Shame on you ‘The Coronado.’ The publicity your [sic] getting donating funds to a cause in which molotov [sic] cocktails, IED’S [sic], pigs [sic] head on a stick, are being used against out [sic] law enforcement! Hope you enjoyed donating to these Domestic Terrorists up here in ND,” wrote someone going by the name “Jason BigBull."
“I think you guys are a joke. Never been there and never will and I will make sure to tell everyone I can how you support terrorists,” wrote Vanessa Pulogi. “You don’t have a fucking clue… get one!! Idiots!!!! You are very unprofessional… calling people racist. You are a piece of shit”
Murtagh and Tavarez say they haven’t received any explicit threats, and add that the amount of positive feedback they’re receiving far outweighs the negative. In addition to an outpouring of positive reviews from Phoenicians, they’re also getting five-star reviews from people in other states, who also have likely never actually eaten at The Coronado.
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“All you can do is focus on being positive and trying to move in the right direction,” Murtagh says. “No matter what you do – you could be trying to save puppies, and someone will be like, ‘There’s too many puppies in the world!’ There will always be someone who disagrees. So I just want to focus the best we can on doing the best we can.”
“There are a handful of trolls,” Murtagh continues. “We don’t want to engage with them … We haven’t taken any of that stuff that they’ve posted down, but what we have had is a ton of people, some that we don’t even know, reporting Facebook abuse posts, or engaging them on our behalf, and that, too, is really inspiring. Doing what you can to stand up for other people only encourages that behavior.”
Murtagh and Tavarez say they plan to hold another fundraiser for the protesters at Standing Rock in the near future.
“It doesn’t change the flavor of the food. It doesn’t change how we work. It doesn’t change our standards,” Tavarez says. “We made a statement. We’re going to make more statements.”