On December 7, Matthew William Gust allegedly "filled a 40-ounce beer bottle with gasoline, broke the window of Juba Coffee and Restaurant and threw the bottle inside, resulting in an explosion that caused $90,000 in damage."
The Grand Forks Herald reports that Gust hurled the Molotov cocktail through the window just days after words “go home” along with Nazi-like symbols were spray-painted on the restaurant, leading many to suspect that the small business was targeted because the owners are Somali. He's in custody after pleading not guilty, waiting for a March 15 trial.
But the story doesn't end there.
A former resident of Grand Forks set up a Go Fund Me account--and the Herald reported of December 20 that Donations for Grand Forks coffee house exceed expectations. The Washington Post reported about the episode and the Post article on Juba arson netted national support.
On Saturday, the Grand Forks Herald published a letter from Juba cafe owners: Thank you, Greater Grand Forks:
We are writing to express our deepest gratitude to the Greater Grand Forks community for its residents' most kind wishes and donations.
We are deeply grateful to be part of this community. We have hope in this country because of you residents. Thank you for your generosity.
All of the donations will help us rebuild our restaurant, Juba Coffee and Restaurant, which served all people — any color and religion.
Juba provided free meals to the unemployed and to newcomers. We don't see color and religion. We see humans first.
The horrible act that happened to our restaurant has no place in the Greater Grand Forks community. We know that this hate does not represent North Dakota. The welcoming comments and best wishes from members of the community are truly appreciated.
Again, many, many thanks for the support and donations from members of the Greater Grand Forks community. We sincerely appreciate it. It means the world to us.
Ilhaam Hassan, Abdulaziz Moallin, Noura Ahmed and family
The owners' mention of feeding the unemployed and newcomers echoes one such story the Grand Forks Herald included in coverage the day after the fire:
. . . Wayne Torrey, who lives at the nearby Ambassador Motel and said he was incredulous of the destruction.
Torrey said he regularly walked past the restaurant on his way to the bus stop and would greet patrons and workers there.
One day, he was having a rough day when restaurant employees offered him a free meal, he said.
“If they’ve got that much heart, I don’t even know why someone would do this” he said.
The Go Fund Me page is still accepting donations here. The effort is still $2,734 short of the goal--we hope readers can help reach that if they have not given already.
Photo: The Juba Cafe in better days.
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