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Detroit Popcorn Co. Faces Backlash Over Owner’s Alleged Social Media Posts About Police Brutality Protests

Some individuals are calling for a boycott of the business

Bulk popcorn in sealed plastic bags on a metal tray. Shutterstock/Janthiwa Sutthiboriban
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Some city residents are calling for a boycott of Detroit Popcorn Company over a staff member’s inflammatory comments online responding to the nationwide protests against police brutality in black communities.

Comments made by the account Even Sangria responding to a separate post by an unknown author that was critical of demonstrators began circulating widely online over the weekend. While the original post and comments are currently unavailable, screenshots taken by Detroit resident Jake Harris appear to show Sangria reacting to destructive protests by commenting: “They wonder why they need knee’s on there necks (sic).”

It appears that Even Sangria is Evan Singer, owner of Detroit Popcorn Company. Cached Facebook posts show Sangria posting advertisements for open positions at Detroit Popcorn Company, and photos of the man on the account seem to match those of the owner accompanying recent media coverage.

Eater has reached out to Detroit Popcorn Company by several times before and during business hours by phone and email and has not received a response to requests for comment.

Even Sangria’s alleged comment alludes to George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who was killed in police custody last week when an officer pressed a knee into his neck for more than 8 minutes. Floyd repeatedly stated that he was having trouble breathing. The former police officer at the center of the incident, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder. Three other ex-officers were also on the scene.

Sangria’s alleged comments have sparked anger among supporters of the protests who feel the cost of human lives — particularly black lives — outweighs economic and business interests. People turned to direct messaging the Detroit Popcorn Company’s account as well as Sangria’s Facebook Messenger to express their anger about his comments.

Screenshot attributed to Jake Harris/Provided by Jacob Sidock
Messages between Detroit Popcorn Company and Malgorzata Bitel in which the company states that Sangria is not an employee. Malgorzata Bitel [Courtesy image]

According to past media reports, Singer is a longtime employee of Detroit Popcorn Company who became the owner in 2019. Singer’s LinkedIn page identifies him as Vice President of Detroit Popcorn Company. Evan D. Singer is listed as the President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Director of Detroit Popcorn’s parent organization Farber Concessions, Inc. in documents filed with the state as recently as April 2020. However, screenshots of private messages between area resident Malgorzata Bitel and Detroit Popcorn Company appear to show management denying that “Even Sangria” is associated the business. “That’s incorrect, Even Sangria is a longtime customer of Detroit Popcorn,” the company writes.

Detroit Popcorn Company’s Facebook page has since been shut down.

In direct messages, shared in screenshots on social media by Jacob Sidock and other community members. Even Sangria responds to a commenter that Eater has identified as Carrie Fountaine Hernandez. In her comment, Hernandez calls Sangria’s original comment “disgusting,” writing: “It’s truly sickening to me that everything turns to race so you can defend and support CRIMINALS that are stealing, burning, and destroying city’s! (sic)”

A screenshot of Hernandez’ conversation in which she says “This is disgusting.” Carrie Fountaine Hernandez [Courtesy image]
A screenshot in which Sangria says he doesn’t “have anything to apologize for.” Carrie Fountaine Hernandez [Courtesy image]

In response, an unknown commenter writes “You’ll be on the news crying and apologizing in no time. Bye felicia.” In response Sangria writes:

Don’t have anything to apologize for. I 100% do NOT agree with stealing, burning, and destroying a city. If you want to Turn that into race- that’s on you, but I do hope I get enough traction on this for the news. This is just another perfect example of how messed up our world is there are people like yourself that want to support these acts of violence and then try to turn it into a racial thing! Maybe you should watch the video, because there were more whites than blacks just like many other videos posted online. So -just so we are clear- I am the FURTHEst from a racist. But I do NOT support what’s happening in these cities. Not 1% period! They should be at the piece of shit cops house, not innocent t people business’s and cities (sic)

In response, the unknown commenter writes, “Dude you said they deserve a knee in the neck. How are you trying to twist your way out of that. (sic) What you said was racist and disgusting and you’ll pay for it.”

In response to that message, Sangria appears to reaffirm his original statement regarding protesters deserving a knee in the neck by writing, “They do!” Sangria’s Facebook page appears to have been disabled.

Detroit Popcorn Company was established in 1923. The company’s large bags of popcorn are popular with companies and organizations providing snacks at events. According to Oakland Press, Singer is a Lyon Township resident and former fireman who became a co-owner of the business in 2015.

Organizers took to the streets of Detroit, Ferndale, Ann Arbor, Flint, and Grand Rapids over the weekend to protest the killing of George Floyd and police violence against other black people including Breonna Taylor of Kentucky, who was killed during a raid of her apartment, and Sha’Teina Grady El, who was punched in the head by a sheriff’s deputy after she bit him during an arrest. Police in Detroit used tear gas and billy clubs on demonstrators congregating throughout the weekend and made dozens of arrests. Mayor Mike Duggan enacted a curfew on Sunday in response to the unrest.

Some are calling for a boycott of the business and asking Detroit Popcorn Company customers to support Motor City Popcorn, a black-owned business, instead. Motor City Popcorn on Monday shared a post urging people not to confuse it with the Detroit Popcorn Company. Motor City Popcorn is a client of Detroit Popcorn Company.

Reached by Eater on Monday night, owner Sean Combs writes in a message that he spoke with Singer about the comments and doesn’t feel satisfied yet. “It’s not enough to what I think needs to be said, we also agreed to meet next week to speak in person in which I have a few things to address with him,” he writes. Combs adds that Detroit Popcorn Company has a virtual “monopoly” on supplies and equipment locally, which make it difficult for him to take his business elsewhere, though he’s assessing his options. “This situation definitely needs to be settled to move forward,” he writes.

Quicken Loans confirms to Eater, that the company has severed ties with Detroit Popcorn Company. Rock Ventures chief communications officer Aaron Walker writes:

This morning we were made aware of the statements made by Evan Singer, owner of Detroit Popcorn, on social media. In a statement released Saturday evening, Quicken Loans CEO Jay Farner committed to doubling down on our existing efforts regarding diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Our message is clear: any business working with our Family of Companies must always demonstrate the same purpose, passion and civility. Those who cannot uphold this standard will not work with us. As such, we are immediately severing ties with Detroit Popcorn.

The Detroit Zoo also has dropped Detroit Popcorn Company as a concessioner. However, since the news broke, a fellow popcorn concessioner and completely separate, unaffiliated business entity Poppin’ & Mixin’ Kettle Corn and the Detroit Kettle Corn Truck have received blowback from people mistaking their business for the Detroit Popcorn Company. Poppin’ & Mixin’ is urging people not to confuse their business with Detroit Popcorn Company.

Several people have posted negative, one-star reviews on the Detroit Popcorn Company’s Google page in the last few hours.

In a statement to Fox 2 on Monday evening, Evan Singer admitted to saying “something I shouldn’t have said.” He says he regrets saying it but “it had nothing to do with race.” Singer says he was responding to a video of a Target being damaged. “As a business owner it’s extremely upsetting when you see that. I’m the furthest person from a racist.” Singer claims his family is being threatened by people who were angered by what he said. “I’m seeing this now and I do understand. I’m so against the police brutality,” Singer says in response to Fox 2’s questions about the connection between his comment and what happened to George Floyd.

Update, 4 p.m., June 1: This story has been updated with a statement from Rock Ventures.
Update, 5:02 p.m., June 1: This story has been updated to include information about the Detroit Zoo.
Update, 7:15 p.m., June 1: This story has been updated to reflect that the author of the private messages is Carrie Fountaine Hernandez.
Update: 7:25 p.m., June 1: This story has been updated with comments from Evan Singer.
Update: 9:23 p.m., June 1: This story has been updated with comments from Sean Combs of Motor City Popcorn, a Detroit Popcorn Company customer.
Update: 10:45 a.m., June 1: This story has been updated to reflect that Poppin’ & Mixin’ and the Detroit Kettle Corn Truck are separate entities from Detroit Popcorn Company.

Co-Owner Buys Out Detroit Popcorn, Plans Growth [Oakland Press]