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Controversy percolates over Lynn coffee shop

The White Rose Coffee Shop in Lynn. (Jim Wilson)

LYNN —  Don’t expect to see law enforcement officers patronizing the White Rose Coffeehouse in Central Square anytime soon.

Over the weekend, Sophie CK, the 23-year-old daughter of shop owner Kato Mele, started a firestorm when she vowed on her personal Facebook page never to allow a “Coffee with a Cop” event to take place at her family’s establishment.

Launched on the West Coast in 2001, the sessions are a chance for the public and police to meet in a comfortable environment. Several coffees have been held at Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co., a competitor’s shop on Munroe Street.

The comment, posted Friday night without her mother’s knowledge, has led to Sophie’s termination and the future of the cafe is uncertain, Mele told The Item Sunday night.

“She has taken down her Facebook page and is receiving death threats and is hiding right now,” Mele said. “I am not of the same opinion and yet I am being held accountable for someone else’s opinion and it’s not going to stop.”  

In a letter to the Lynn Police Department, Mele apologized for what she called the reprehensible affront, distasteful, biased and hateful remarks made by her daughter on Facebook.

“We do not share any of the views expressed and are proud and grateful to all law enforcement for their strength and brave disregard to their personal safety that they risk every single day which allows us to live, work and worship in a sometimes hostile world,” she wrote. “They do so frequently under unwarranted scrutiny…with ever diminishing resources. The men and women of law enforcement are heroic. Make no mistake, I am incredibly proud of them and what they do.”

Kato Mele. (Mark Lorenz)

In her letter, Mele invited officers to come to the coffeeshop so she can make amends.

While some on Facebook questioned Mele’s parenting skills, she said her children were raised to form their own opinions, but not to hate or be anti-police.

After seeing the post, she called her daughter and told her she had no right to post something about the business, she said.

“I told her I didn’t hold those beliefs and said she didn’t own or run the business,” Mele said. “She was very apologetic about it and took down the page, but the damage has already been done.”

When a reader questioned the post, Sophie responded by saying cops are “bullies” and her comment was “Absolutely not a mistake. Citizens do not need to humanize police officers, police need to humanize citizens, particularly black citizens which they seem to struggle with doing, considering they keep murdering them.”

As others wrote the shop should be boycotted, there were a few posts offering support, such as one by Jack Allen who wrote “It is nice to see people with principles these days.”

But more typical were hundreds who rejected her claims, including David Clancy who wrote “Police are regular men and women doing a very challenging job these days and dangerous job at that. For a representative of this company to spread this hate and disconnect towards police to try paint with a broad brush of all cops being bad is very irresponsible and wrong.”  

Michael McEachern, a Lynn officer who recently received the Medal of Valor for bravery, questioned the wisdom of the divisive post.

“She is not helping anyone with that kind of ignorance.”

It’s unclear what prompted Sophie’s comment. She could not be reached for comment and her mother declined to release her last name given the threats.

In her initial online response to her daughter and the subsequent complaints, Mele posted that she has “always been respectful of police and appreciate the job they do in this diverse and complicated city with few resources” and referenced her daughter’s youth. Later, she posted that her daughter has been fired.  

“While I love her deeply, she made an appalling statement on her social media page with which I very much disagree … I truly believe spending some time with an officer and ‘humanizing’ him or her is the most important step for her and for others who engage in this type of rhetoric.”

Sophie has since apologized to her mother online, noting she has tried hard to make the business a success.

Police Chief Michael Mageary told The Item while the department has not taken an official position, it’s likely police officers will choose to buy their coffee elsewhere.

“This is a non-story,” he said. “The young lady has a right to say whatever she wants and we respect that. We will continue to do our job everyday. My sense is most officers will avoid the establishment, but that’s their choice.”

Mele is worried about the future of the business.

“I’m not sure what I will do about the shop,” she said. “The joy of the business was people coming in, getting together. I feel like everyone knew our mission was to host arts events, and much of the joy that I got from that is gone. I’ll have to see. Right now, I feel attacked by people online who have not taken the time to meet me.”

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