BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer
A south Palo Alto activist has been fired from her accounting job at Gryphon Stringed Instruments after chasing a man wearing a Make America Great Again cap out of Starbucks and then posting about the confrontation on Facebook.
Rebecca Parker Mankey, 46, was fired on Tuesday (April 2), the day after she yelled at a man with a bushy gray beard named Victor who regularly visits the Starbucks at 361 California Ave. in Palo Alto wearing a red MAGA hat. Mankey didn’t return the Post’s requests for comment.
“Anybody in Palo Alto know this freak?” Mankey asked in a widely shared Facebook post that included two photos of the man at Starbucks. “He will never forget me and will think seriously about wearing that hat in my town ever again. If you see him in this hat, please confront him.”
Mankey went on to write that she yelled at him, “called the entire Starbucks to order” and yelled at him again about hating Latinos.
“He threatened to call the cops. I left after yelling at him some more,” Mankey wrote. “I went back in and yelled after I had changed my mind and wanted him to call the police because I wanted to know his name, where he lived, his wife’s name and where his kids went to school.”
Mankey then called the man more names, told him to call police and asked someone else at Starbucks to call the police.
“He wouldn’t call the police, so I called him a wimp. He got his stuff together to leave. I followed him to the register while he complained about me,” Mankey wrote. “Then chased him out of Starbucks yelling him to get the f*** out of my town and never come back.”
At one point, the man asked Mankey whether she lived in Palo Alto, she said.
“He wasn’t expecting me to say that I was Palo Alto born and bred. I think he lives in Palo Alto, please please send me a (direct message) if you see him anywhere,” Mankey wrote. “The part that was really heartbreaking to me was that in a full Starbucks, I was the only person yelling at him.”
Mankey said it was the “duty of every white person in America to stand up to this every time they see it.”
Mankey is an affordable housing activist who was appointed to serve on the city’s North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan Working Group. In November 2017, she unsuccessfully sought an appointment to the Planning and Transportation Commission, winning votes from slow-growth council members Tom DuBois, Lydia Kou and Karen Holman. She also ran for a delegate seat with the Democratic State Central Committee in January, but wasn’t elected.
On Tuesday morning, the conservative Twitter account @RightHookUSA posted screenshots of Mankey’s Facebook post to its nearly 12,800 followers.
Later, @RightHookUSA even tagged Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Don Austin in a tweet after finding out that Mankey’s husband works for the school district.
“@DonAustin_PAUSD, I left a (voicemail) w/your secretary Victoria regarding the wife of your employee Will Mankey. Parker Mankey is inciting mob-like violence against an elderly man who wore a MAGA hat,” @RightHookUSA tweeted at 11:14 a.m. Tuesday. “She lists your school info on her (Facebook). Do you condone?”
Dozens of other conservatives have weighed in on the confrontation on Twitter and Facebook. @RightHookUSA even started using Mankey’s name as a verb, as in “You’ve been Parker Mankeyd.”
By Tuesday afternoon, Mankey was fired, according to the management at Gryphon Stringed Instruments, also called Gryphon Strings, a company that sells, rents and repairs used and vintage instruments from guitars to mandolins.
“We understand how passionate she is regarding politics. We never could have imagined it would have escalated to this kind of ordeal,” Gryphon Strings store manager Matt Lynch told the Post. “Putting political beliefs aside, you know, we are just not going to tolerate that kind of harassment from any of our employees, no matter what position they hold here.”
Gryphon Strings was inundated with angry phone calls on Tuesday from people who heard about the confrontation, likely via social media.
Some of the calls were from locals, while others came from elsewhere in the country and even Canada. The store also got emails from abroad.
“Every other call was pretty much regarding this issue,” Lynch said. “It was a bit overwhelming.”
Calls from locals were “really quite level-headed” in explaining their disappointment, while out-of-town callers tended to be more obscene and included threats, Lynch said.
The threats were vague: mainly male callers saying they were going to come to the store with a group of people and “teach us how to run our business,” according to Lynch.
This morning, Palo Alto Human Relations Commissioner Steven Lee said in a statement that Mankey is “beloved by many in our community for her progressive activism, myself included.”
But, Lee said, Mankey’s confrontation at Starbucks showed that she had “allowed herself to be pulled down” into the “muck” of political polarization.
“The MAGA hat at its best represents a distorted and inaccurate view of America, its history and its place in the world and, at its worst, is a symbol of hate and everything that is wrong with America today,” Lee wrote. “We resist intolerance. But we do not resist people. We must resist sinking down to their level. We must hold out our hand and help pull them out of the muck.”
A regular Starbucks customer who declined to give his name said he had seen the man in the MAGA hat at Starbucks and Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels. He usually sits with a newspaper and talks with a female companion about national politics “loudly enough so people can hear.”
Like most other customers, he said he tries to leave the MAGA man alone because he seems to be “just trying to antagonize people” with his statements about immigration and other topics that the customer described as “typical Fox News.”
The man said he didn’t see Mankey confront the man on Monday. He’s only seen one person, another woman, ever confront him in a “20-second” encounter.
A Starbucks barista today (April 3) declined to leave a message for the store manager, explaining that he didn’t want to comment.