It started as a protest against a beer company in Montauk that expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but in less than a week, has grown into something much more significant than whether or not to buy a can of beer. The Defund Montauk Brewing Company group page on Facebook was poised to get its 23,000th member Monday morning.
To members of the group, the page is a place to express anger over a system they see as tilted against whites and the police.
The group was started by Rob Frank, a Farmingdale resident who posted on his own timeline the following on August 12: “I have decided to start a group to show this business who their supporters really were. I am truly upset in these poor business decisions.” He and his wife, Valeria Frank are listed as the administrators.
Frank has not yet responded to written questions seeking comment.
The business he was referring to, Montauk Brewing Company, had put a sign outside the store on South Erie Avenue in downtown Montauk that read, “The founders and team at Montauk Brewing Company support the movement with all our hearts. Black lives matter.” The sign went on to say that the company was donating to “organizations that further the cause.”
The sign was put up on June 2, according to the owners, and was taken down the next day. For over two months, it was out of sight, and out of mind, until Frank created his “Defund” group, featuring an image of the June 2 sign.
The “Defund” group immediately took off, with hundreds of postings lambasting Montauk Brewing Company for supporting Black Lives Matter. Posters demanded that bars, restaurants and distributors stop carrying the beer.
On August 14, a counter page, “We Love Montauk Brewing Company” was created, with a few hundred supporters so far.
When IndyEastEnd spoke with one of the owners of the brewing company, Eric Moss, on August 14, he said that the sign was not meant to indicate that the company was taking a political position, but was endorsing the idea that black lives do matter. After speaking with Moss, IndyEastEnd learned that his father had served 24 years in the East Hampton Town Police Department.
A reader of IndyEastEnd online, Donna Anderson, responded by sending a photograph of the three founding owners of Montauk Brewing Company attending a President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden fundraiser in Bridgehampton on August 24, 2012. “So yeah it’s political,” Anderson wrote.
The company put up another sign on August 14, then issued a lengthy statement on their own Facebook page August 15. Both were meant to assure the public that the company was not financially supporting Black Lives Matter.
The statement reads, in part, “That is why this past June we spoke up about an event that displayed racism and responded by donating to two nonprofits BEAM (focused on emotional mental health and healing) and the NAACP. While our post received overwhelming support initially, recent responses made us realize we should clarify and affirm our intent. Our post was specifically in favor of racial equality. We unequivocally and unapologetically stand against racism and violence in any capacity.
“We also have and always will support our police, first responders, nurses, doctors, fire departments and the military.”
“We support the police,” Vaughan Cutillo, another of the founding owners, reiterated during a conversation on Friday. “We have a very good relationship with the East Hampton Town police. I went to high school with these guys. We support them. We donate to the PBA and will continue to do so. There is no place for violence at all. We would never support that.”
Members of the Defund group were not convinced. They called the owners “elitists,” offering “too little, too late.” Posters repeatedly demanded that the company should be put out of business via a boycott.
Manny Vilar, president of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State and a Springs resident who once ran for East Hampton Town Supervisor, wrote in a post the morning of August 15 on IndyEastEnd’s Facebook page, saying that while he has always been supportive of Montauk Brewing Company, “They clearly do not understand the difference between supporting a cause and supporting an organization that supports inequality, racism, discrimination, hatred, anti-American values, and violence against police officers.”
After Montauk Brewing Company posted its written statement on Facebook, Vilar commented, “I can unequivocally state that the Montauk Brewery Company owners #SupportOurPolice, and rejects all positions, ideologies, and organizations that promote and advocate defunding police, anti-police, racial and professional biased sentiments.”
Whether members of the Defund group as well as the rank and file of police officers in the group agree with Vilar remains to be seen.
One member, Bobby Beans, wrote, “They still donated to the NAACP which is another terrorist organization so f–k them.”
Many showed support for the brewing company on its Instagram page.
@mr_jay17 commented, “Personally knowing the founders of this company I can whole heartedly say they are men of true character, empathy, and compassion.”
@amala1013 wrote, “Totally stand by you and your message! You can indeed support racial and human equality and back the blue. Narrow minded people need not reply!!!”
“The mob needs to back off. I know these guys personally and can tell you they are great people. The brewmasters father was a police officer for crying out loud. They support equality and our first responders at the same time… as we all should. Good people doing good things. Cancel culture needs to stop,” wrote a commenter with the handle @bertrand_941.
Local musician Nancy Atlas wrote, “I stand with you!”
When Frank started the “Defund” group on August 12, it had 10 members. On Saturday afternoon, the group had over 17,000 members, with at least 100 more joining every hour.
By Sunday morning, the group had reached 19,800 members. Two hours later, that number had increased to over 20,200. By Sunday at 4:30 p.m., the group had surpassed 21,000 members.
Between Saturday night and Sunday morning, the group made a major change in its approach on Facebook to outsiders. It went private, meaning no one can see the posts or the members unless they join.
In order to join, an applicant must pass a single question test: “Do you support domestic terrorist organization BLM?” A yes or no answer is required to be considered for membership.
Before it went private, IndyEastEnd reviewed several hundred posts.
Members of the group include many current and former police officers from departments across Long Island, from East Hampton Town to New York City. While almost all of the members viewed by The Independent were white, there are members who say they are black police officers who wanted to disavow the Black Lives Matter movement. A member with a Facebook ID of Dahn Bee wrote, “I’m a black cop. My life is meaningless to BLM and its supporters. This means that their entire concept is fallacious.”
Most of the members of Defund the Montauk Brewing Company appear to be from towns and villages across Long Island, as well as from New York City, and the greater metropolitan area.
The group has become a lightning rod for those who feel that Black Lives Matter is an organization that targets police officers, and whites in general. Most believe that Black Lives Matter is a Communist and/or a terrorist organization.
Race and white anger over what members see as a biased media and a corrupt leftist political system that is biased in favor of African Americans are ongoing topics for the group.
A member self-identified as Pete Lambert wrote, “We also know that the death of Saint George Floyd, the Patron Saint of scumbags was an OVERDOSE !!! And not a police murder. And while we are at it, we also know that BLM is a Marxist front that engages in a Marxist Insurrection in real time, burning cities across America.”
“The radical Progressive liberal Democrats with their Leftwing unhinged poison hijacks and destroys everything it comes into contact with,” Ken Carmen wrote.
On the subject of reparations for Black Americans, Nita Solo writes, “We owe nothing, however, the Democratic Party does owe them a huge apology for exploiting them and keeping them hooked to a welfare system that resembles the plantations and the break down of the family.”
“You know, if it were white people looting and destroying communities, killing their own people on the daily, playing the race card every chance they get, denouncing and blaming every other race for their terrible life decisions, and doing absolutely nothing to better themselves or their communities…I would be calling them out every chance I get,” wrote Kerry Cesoro.
While the administrators and moderators removed posts hostile to their views, they let posts such as the following stand: Michael Lee, referring to a Black female advocate for Black Lives Matter who argued with Tucker Carlson on Fox News last week, wrote “She lacks an intelligence gene like most blacks! Fact!”
Videos are a common part of the postings. One shows a group, all of whom appear to be Black, looting a store in Chicago. Another video seen often is of Ariel Atkins, a Black Lives Matter organizer in Chicago, condoning violence and looting, saying that it is a form of reparations.
An image that appears repeatedly is that of Cannon Hinnant, a 5-year-old white boy who was shot in the head and killed while playing in his front yard August 9 in Wilson, North Carolina. The alleged killer was the boy’s next-door neighbor, Darius Sessoms, 25, who is Black.
Some of the posts state that Black Lives Matter celebrated the murder. The Wilson police department has put out a statement warning the public that there are numerous false and misleading Facebook postings about the murder.
The victim’s father told various news outlets that the Sessoms family and he had been neighbors for eight years, and that he had been barbecuing chicken the night before the murder and had invited Sessoms to join him. He said that, while they each had a beer, Sessoms seemed agitated, and “paranoid.” Sessoms parents told The Wilson Times that their son, who no longer lived with them, was on drugs, and may have been hallucinating at the time of the shooting.
Other posts on the “Defund” group page say that news organizations ignored the story. Wilson is a small city of under 50,000. The local paper, The Wilson Times covered the story immediately. The Raleigh News & Observer picked it up the next day. By the end of the week, national news outlets were covering it.