Defiant café ordered to close doors

Henry-Laur Allik
, ajakirjanik
Around 100 people had turned up to support Brauer after the end of the workday.
Around 100 people had turned up to support Brauer after the end of the workday. Photo: Madis Veltman

The Health Board on Tuesday ordered coronavirus activist Elvis Brauer’s (EKRE) MEM Café to close doors and cease all commercial activity after it repeatedly ignored precepts. Around one hundred people turned up to support the business throughout the day.

The decision to close MEM Café took no one by surprise. The establishment had been fined three times for a total of €15,000 following police raids. However, this is hardly a concern for Brauer who has taken in over €65,000 in online donations from people who support him

Health Board officials and police officers ordered the eatery closed on Tuesday morning just as MEM Café was preparing to open for the day. The officials were met by a defiant and furious Brauer who regards the decision to close the café and police actions as completely illegal.

While the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act (NETS) allows establishments to be closed or their activities limited when it is necessary for inhibiting the spread of an infectious disease, corresponding explanations by police officers meant nothing to Brauer.

Brauer, who is a member of the opposition Conservative People’s Party (EKRE) and got 436 votes in North Tallinn at the 2021 local government council elections, refused to give Postimees a comment, claiming mainstream media bias, even after the paper offered to air the video interview in unedited form.

Supporters of Elvis Brauer started showing up around noon despite freezing temperatures. The police cordoned off the building and ordered a prohibition on stay. Around ten officers kept an eye on the café and the protesting crowds. Only local residents and Brauer were allowed to enter and leave the building.

Neither the temperature nor the fact it was a workday daunted Brauer’s supporters, with dozens of people arriving on the scene around noon, including those who had attended the protests against NETS in spring. Brauer who could stay warm inside showed up now and again to offer the protesters tea and pastries. The café was playing Christmas jazz.

People who had shown up to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the Health Board’s decision had different ideas about why the café was closed. For example, it was opined that the government wants to make an example of MEM Café, that it is an attempt to lay down an apartheid regime, as well as that the Freemasons are behind it all.

One of Brauer’s greatest allies, head of the Foundation for the Protection of Family and Tradition (SAPTK) Varro Vooglaid arrived and compared the board’s decision to the establishments of kolkhozes when people were also stripped of their property.

A part of supporters invited and kindly encouraged police officers to side with the “people,” while others had shown up so they could throw verbal abuse at representatives of the law.

While the police had several verbal altercations with protesters throughout the day, an incident where an officer had to wrestle themselves free from a person’s grip was the only physical conflict.

Around 100 people had turned up to support Brauer after the end of the workday, with Vana-Kalamaja street packed with people at 6 p.m.

The protesters started a barrel fire to combat freezing temperatures that was fed with “Please wear a mask” posters ripped from public transport vehicles. This did not last long as the fire brigade soon turned up to put out the fire.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) told Postimees that it is unknown how long officers will have to guard the café. North Prefect Joosep Kaasik said on Tuesday evening that the decision of whether to maintain the perimeter all night will be made at around the café’s closing time.

“People have the right to protest so long as they are not a danger to themselves or others,” the prefect added.

One option would see police officers replaced by security guards, while Brauer would have to pay for that. “I would like to hope our stay will be as short as possible. We are eager to see the Health Board find an alternative solution,” Kaasik said.