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The Arab-American owner of Cup Foods, whose employees called police about George Floyd after he allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit 20-dollar bill at the store, condemned the actions by officers that led to Floyd’s death.
Owners and employees of the store have themselves received death threats from those enraged by the killing of Floyd by Minneapolis police on Monday.
“There have been countless death threats,” said spokesman Jamar B. Nelson. “They threatened to do harm to the store, and they threatened to do bodily harm to individuals in the store.”
Owner Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, known by customers as “Mike,” said in an interview with Sahan Journal that he was shocked at the behavior of police, which he termed an “execution.”
“We stand for Black Lives Matter,” he said. “We are against abuse of power and racial injustice. We have a system that is broken, and it must be fixed.”
Cup Foods has been around for 31 years at 38th St. and Chicago Ave. in the Powderhorn neighborhood. The convenience store originally was opened in 1989, selling groceries and convenience item. It added other items later, including a deli and cell phone services. There is also a mosque in the basement.
Mahmoud Abumayyeh’s father, Hamadeh, was a fixture at the shop for decades, and former residents of the area recalled that everyone knew him as “Pops.” He died in 2012.
The store has been owned for decades by his sons, including Mahmoud, who runs it on a day-to-day basis.
One former resident of the area said the family always looked out for the community. “I have seen where they have come in and extended credit to people that didn’t have their payroll check,” she said. “I’ve seen them put minutes on somebody’s phone because they haven’t gotten paid yet.”
She came to the family’s defense when she saw on Facebook that people were calling the family murderers, and saying that the store should be burned down. “It was just very nasty things,” she said.
According to Nelson, the threats against the store and the people who work there have come over the phone. There also have been many critical posts on the store’s Facebook page.
“Count your days,” one Facebook post reads. “You bastards will die slowly.”
Nelson said Floyd tried to make a purchase with a suspected counterfeit bill, which the store employee refused to accept. He left the store but lingered outside. That’s when the employee called police, Nelson said.
Cup Foods has had its own brushes with law enforcement over the years. In the 1990s, the business was threatened with license revocation due to the high levels of crime and police calls. More recently, Cup Foods has been involved in neighborhood revitalization efforts in collaboration with the city, other neighborhood businesses and nonprofits.
According to Nelson, police are not often called to the store, except in serious situations. “We take counterfeit extremely seriously,” he said. “We train employees that when they come in with any type of false document, protocol is to notify the authorities.”
Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), spoke in support of the Abumayyaleh family.
“I think people need to be conscious that four police officers slowly killed an innocent man. Police officers find any way to do these types of crimes all over the country,” Hussein said. “We need to be focused on the four police officers and having them be jailed with no bail until full charges are brought against them.”
For Hussein, focusing on anything besides the police undermines the community’s ability to understand the real threat.
Store employees came out to try to stop the police, Hussein said. “They had members of their store telling them to stop. They are shocked and saddened by this as anyone else,” he said. “If we lose focus on police accountability, we do a great injustice in fighting for George Floyd.”
Abdirahman Mohamed contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story has been amended to remove the name of a source who spoke on condition of anonymity, to correct the name of Mahmoud Abumayyeh’s father to Hamadeh, and to clarify that Hamadeh sons have owned the store for decades.