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Occupy activist aims to take down ‘racist’ DC food truck

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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WASHINGTON — Food trucks have become all the rage lately, even here in the nation’s capital. One food truck in particular has gotten some DC locals riled up.

Dressed in fake mustaches and turbans, the Fojol Brothers have been delighting patrons with their tasty concoctions from their mythical homeland Merlindia, a made-up nation. Their menu includes an assortment of Indian and Ethiopian-style foods, from chicken masala and curry to beef berbere and shiro.

Coming from humble origins in Washington’s Adams Morgan neighborhood, the brothers “hope to bring together local communities through a dynamic food experience on DC’s streets,” while also being environmentally conscious and, most importantly, “helping the lives of children in DC.” The pair set aside a portion of their earnings to fund at-risk youth programs.

Their act, however, has been criticized by some DC locals. Drew Franklin, an American University student and Occupy DC activist, wrote an open letter to the Brothers on Facebook calling them “worthy ambassadors of poor taste”, “faux-mustachioed goombas”, and “woefully misguided” white boys who are exploiting “DC’s growing vanilla consumer base.”

Franklin finishes the letter saying, “Find a new gimmick, or else please set that ugly tin wagon on fire and drive it into the Potomac. Dicks.”

Franklin goes even further accusing the brothers of “hipster racism.”

“Do understand that by accusing you of hipster racism, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt. I’m taking for granted that you’re just well-meaning (if woefully misguided) white boys with a contemptible sense of humor,”  he wrote.

There is even a petition on Change.org, to show the brothers just how many people find their business offensive.

The petition, started by Arturo J. Viscarro, aims to show “ the rest of the Fojol Bros. business know that a lot more than five of us are not OK with their Orientalist and racist appropriation of South Asian and East African cultures.”

As of now, the petition has 890 signatures.

Despite the attacks on their business they spent years building, the Fojol Brothers haven’t been deterred by Franklin’s comments.

“It happens very infrequently. And so it doesn’t seem very legitimate. It’s generally people who are offended on behalf of another group,” Justin Vitarello, one of the food truck owners, told the Huffington Post. “That’s our reality. I think anyone who starts out a letter with ‘Dear Idiots’ is also not the most respectful person.”

“We’re not going to stop doing that, is what it comes down to,” says Vitarello. “The people and the market will tell whether they like this or not.”

“I don’t really think the truck should be set on fire [and driven into the Potomac],” Franklin told the HuffPost. “If only because I hold the fish in high regard. I don’t want people polluting rivers. The only threat they should be worried about is that we’ll escalate a campaign to raise awareness about this, and let people know that this is a problem.”

A look into Franklin’s past shows he has been involved in radical, anti-business campaigns before. He was a member of the “facilitation team” at Occupy DC, spending a lot of time at the group’s McPherson Square headquarters, and has been involved in the prisoner solidarity network.

Franklin has also written for In Front and Center, a group affiliated with the Occupy Wall Street movement. In a post criticizing some the shortcomings of Occupy DC, Franklin and his co-author, Vasudha Desikan, described themselves as “anarchists committed to direct democracy” and likened the occupy movement to the Arab Spring. The co-authors closed with the line, “Towards liberation!”

Franklin did not return TheDCNF’s request for an interview.

There is also now an open letter written to Drew Franklin by Jason Rathod defending the Fojol Brothers.

“[T]heir food is great, their service is stellar, and their aesthetic is well-meaning, plus avoids the obvious racial faux-paus of donning face color and mocking accents, the latter of which, incidentally, is more than can be said of our Vice President,” letter reads. “Put simply, chill out, bro, and channel all that activist energy to something useful.”

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