Tiburon Police Investigate Threat Against Town’s Only Black-Owned Store

The Tiburon Police Department is investigating a pre-election threat made against the town’s only Black-owned business, downtown clothing retailer Yema

The threatening Instagram post, which was shared with the shop’s owners on Monday evening, read “If Biden wins me and the boys gonna go raid yemma 4:00 on Election Day show up.” Though the shop’s name was misspelled, a photo of the Yema store was included in the post. A gun icon was also displayed.

A young girl from Tiburon alerted her parents to the threat and they contacted the store owners, Yema Khalif and his wife Hawi Awash. Khalif’s friend researched the account and tracked it back to a student at Del Mar Middle School in Tiburon, Khalif said.

The account is now deleted and, after investigating, Tiburon police said it was a spoof account and the person the account was named after was not involved. Still store owners Khalif and Hawi Awash take the threat seriously.

“This is not a joke to us,” Khalif said. “We have received hate voicemails and hate letters. There is a problem here in Marin County. This does not happen in a vacuum. What are we teaching our children?”

Tiburon Police will continue to provide increased patrols around the downtown area as an investigation continues, a representative of the agency told the Pacific Sun on Thursday.

A few dozen individuals showed up to a demonstration to  support the store’s owners at 4:00pm on Election Day.

Tim Miller traveled from Novato to fly a large Black Lives Matters flag.

“I’m here to support Yema,” Miller said. “Racial tensions have been exacerbated by social media and the current administration. We’re boiling over.”

This isn’t the first time the shop has been in the spotlight for a race related issue. Yema made national news in late August when a video was released which  showed Tiburon police officers initiating an aggressive confrontation with  the shop owners as they restocked inventory at 1:00am on Friday, Aug. 21. The video shows that officers questioned Khalif for more than 10 minutes about his presence in the store.

The situation escalated when then-Sergeant Michael Blasi insisted that Khalif provide identification. It ended only when a white neighbor shouted from across the street that Khalif is the owner of the store.

The ruckus resulted in an outpouring of community support for Khalif and Awash and condemnation of the police department. Shortly after the incident, Blasi resigned and Police Chief Michael Cronin took early retirement.

Khalif feels disheartened by both events and sees them as interruptions to his work here and in East Africa. He designs the bold, colorful clothing for the Yema shop and 20 percent  of sales benefit Khalif and Awash’s charitable work in Kenya and Ethiopia.

“I don’t need these distractions,” Khalif said. “I just want to create and do good for the world.”

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Nikki Silverstein
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