Shop Owner Claims FBI Raided His Store Over His Offensive Murals, But Details Suggest Otherwise

from the because-not-everything-is-a-Zionist-conspiracy dept

Copblock is dishing some dirt on a “warrantless” FBI raid in Cleveland, purportedly over a convenience store owner’s controversial murals.

The FBI recently raided a small gas station in Cleveland, Ohio for apparently no other reason than having a controversial mural painted on the wall.

The SWAT team, armed with rifles, handguns, and bulletproof vests, stormed through the store without showing any warrants or answering any questions about why they were there according to the store’s owner, Abe Ayad.

According to Cleveland’s NewsNet5, Ayad demanded to see a warrant from the agents, but they were never able to show him one.

Here’s some video of the raid, which apparently concluded (the video, not the raid) when FBI agents shut down the recordings.

Over the years, Abe Ayad has displayed a number of potentially-offensive murals on the outside walls of his convenience store. These were painted by artist Harry Bell and have depicted, among other things, Israel’s prime minister bending Uncle Sam over a pile of dead soldiers, a rabbi fellating* an infant and, in slightly less inflammatory (but potentially infringing) manner, Joe Camel giving Abe Ayad a thumbs up for… I guess, selling lots of cigarettes.

*While this sounds entirely despicable, there is a small bit of truth underlying the depiction of a rabbi with his mouth on an infant’s penis. Here’s a description of the circumcision process, as practiced by some Orthodox members of the Jewish faith. It’s short, but says all it needs to say.

Under Jewish law, a mohel must draw blood from the circumcision wound. Most mohels do it by hand with a suction device, but some Orthodox groups use their mouth to draw blood after cutting the foreskin.

Abe Ayad “identifies” as a Muslim, which probably makes him a Muslim (distancing use of “identifies” courtesy of, which probably explains why so many of his murals target Jews. That these are displayed on the outside of his business sort of makes it a civic issue. In all fairness to the city, it has never demanded a removal of the murals. It has only asked that they be made smaller and thus less visible from the road.

Ayad has refused. And if a man’s home is his castle and his licensed business his castle with an ROI, then he should — for the most part — be free to decorate it with images others might find offensive. (Obviously, actually obscene images would be another issue altogether.) Those offended are free to tell Ayad he’s a racist and a fool and spend their money elsewhere. It’s not as though Ayad is the sole provider of anything in Cleveland. But considering the issues at the center of the artwork, the city has responded in a mostly commendable fashion. There seems to be nothing approaching a heckler’s veto being humored here.

That’s the good news. Here in the US, people are free to display their irrational hatred and ignorance. If Ayad isn’t actually committing violence against Jews or imploring others to commit criminal acts, then his artwork is just a two-party wall of shame that should be pitied for its deep-held ignorance, rather than booed off the face of the planet by the offended.

As is the case with many anti-Semites, Ayad feels any harassment he experiences as a result of his murals is linked to a “Zionist conspiracy.” He has also been represented by a now-permanently disbarred attorney who, not coincidentally, claims his disbarment is the result of a “Zionist conspiracy.

Ayad also claims to have been raided by local police in 2009. He doesn’t specifically say it was because of the murals (it’s implied) but law enforcement seized money, guns and an apparently very expensive stamp collection. Most of it was subsequently returned.

“They can’t arrest me. For what?” said Ayad. “2009 they raided me too. No charges. They gave me back my guns, they kept my money and then they gave me back my money minus the coin collection, which was valued over $3 million.”

Similar items were seized in the recent raid. But this doesn’t have anything to do with the murals, even if Ayad is skewing it in that direction. has, simultaneously, no details and more details.

FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson said agents surrounded and sealed off the East 55th Street gas station about 10 a.m. to execute a warrant.

She would not provide any other details.

Ayad, however, did.

The store’s owner, Abe Ayad, said agents were looking for evidence of food stamp fraud and illegal gun sales. Ayad said no such activity has taken place in the business.

Which is not the same thing as being raided for controversial murals. Ayad may believe this is part of a conspiracy to shut down his business and save the city from having to field more mural-related complaints, but it appears the issues at hand in this raid (and the 2009 raid as well) are unrelated to the paintings on the exterior walls.

Now, it may be possible that two raids with six years between them are both a part of a larger plan to disrupt and destroy Ayad’s business. It could be Ayad’s multiple appearances in court for civil lawsuits are also instrumental to the city’s long-term plan to be rid of his murals forever. Or it could simply be that neither of these are related to the artwork, but rather inextricably tied together because the murals on the outside can’t be separated from the interior of the business endorsing these viewpoints.

It may be that someone in Cleveland’s law enforcement community has it in for Ayad, possibly because of the murals, but there doesn’t appear to be a sustained history of harassment. While the city would undoubtedly enjoy a respite from Ayad’s “antics” and the complaints that follow them, there’s very little here to justify any claims that the FBI raided Ayad’s store over the murals. Free speech (mostly) lives here and Ayad’s contentious relationship with a great many people has yet to see his store shut down for any reason, legitimate or not.

As for Ayad not being allowed to see the warrant, that’s perfectly legal as well. Law enforcement officers are under no obligation to present the warrant before performing searches or seizures. It’s simply enough that the warrant exists and is presented to the raided party at some point during the search. A “warrantless raid” — as this has been portrayed — means the absence of a warrant, not just that the raided party wasn’t presented with a warrant before it commenced. Any number of exigent circumstances exist that allow for the presentation of a warrant after a search/seizure has already commenced. In this case, paperwork was handed over to Ayad at the time of the agents’ departure. So, while a bit on the shady side morally-speaking, the entire operation clearly falls within the legal bounds.

I’m all for a “bad cop/censorship” narrative, but one doesn’t exist here. I prefer the ones where the official parties have buried themselves, rather than grab a shovel and start hurling dirt when in possession of only a bare minimum of facts. So, score one for the good guys, I guess — pending any further details that point to the FBI being pointed in the direction of Ayad because (a) he’s Muslim and (b) he owns guns.

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Comments on “Shop Owner Claims FBI Raided His Store Over His Offensive Murals, But Details Suggest Otherwise”

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Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t know about you, but my level of trust for police in general these days is ‘only with evidence’. If they say the sky is blue I’ll look out a window.

I’ve read an increasing number of stories each year, for the past few years, of police raiding people without warrants, then getting the warrant to raid hours or days later.

If they say they have a warrant, I’ll demand to see it. If they can’t provide it, then it is reasonable to assume they lack one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Umm… No, sir. Warrant first, then search the premises. No argument. No discussion. No excuses.

> I know it’s a hassle doing what it says, but the Constitution does exist for a reason.

You might want to get real advice from an attorney licensed to practice in your state before you do too much insisting beyond asking for evidence of a warrant. Police do carry weapons, and have fewer restrictions on using them in that situation that you do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

well to answer the question do they have to produce the warrant looks like they do. this is taken from the

What if agents have a search warrant?

If you are present when agents come for the search, you

can ask to see the warrant. The warrant must specify in detail

the places to be searched and the people or things to be taken

away. Tell the agents you do not consent to the search so that

they cannot go beyond what the warrant authorizes. Ask if

you are allowed to watch the search; if you are allowed to,

you should. Take notes, including names, badge numbers,

what agency each officer is from, where they searched and

what they took. If others are present, have them act as wit-

nesses to watch carefully what is happening. If the agents

ask you to give them documents, your computer, or anything

else, look to see if the item is listed in the warrant. If it is not,

do not consent to them taking it without talking to a lawyer.

You do not have to answer questions. Talk to a lawyer first.

Cops or FBI are not allowed to just use lethal force when they want, yes we know they do but it is still against the law. This also answers the question that yes they have to show you the warrant, it specifies what they are looking for, you know so they can not go on a fishing trip.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, you’re wrong. It’s the other way around — police have greater restrictions on using their weapons than the general public do.

Why do I say this? Because both are bound to obey statutory law, but police are public officials, who are bound by the constitution in ways the general public is not.

The fact that the system is corrupt and does not apply the law to its friends doesn’t abolish the law. If a system being corrupt abolished laws, then bribery would not be illegal because it has the approval of a government official.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thank you for so neatly summing up why it’s the defenders of free speech that’s have made me dubious of the concept: “he should — for the most part — be free to decorate it with images others might find offensive. (Obviously, actually obscene images would be another issue altogether.) “

You do realize that obscene just means “seen as offensively dirty to the community” right? ‘How dare you draw a line in the sand on what you’re allowed to say! Now, excuse me while I go back to drawing lines in the sand on what you’re allowed to say.’

Anonymous Coward says:

Is this "tech" or "dirt"? No. So why this article? Part of ongoing "all Muslims are crazy" propaganda here.

First, a warrant is required when planned in advance, and showing it is necessary. The writer goes to some length trying to excuse unusual procedure.

Next, a SWAT team for alleged food-stamp fraud and illegal gun sales, but they leave empty-handed? That’s sheer intimidation, then.

If was an alleged drug dealer, Techdirt would be ranting at police over-reaction. But because the victim is guilty of being Muslim, police tactics are approved and the victim is held to be crazy.

The “not everything is a Zionist conspiracy” sub-head implicitly states that many other events are.

And details on barbaric Jewish ritual genital mutilation absolutely clinches the biased viewpoint.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Is this "tech" or "dirt"? No. So why this article? Part of ongoing "all Muslims are crazy" propaganda here.

You sir got this right. there are way to many problems with this story. I would think they are targeting him as he may be muslim, and is not happy with the current state of things in this world and has had them painted on his building.

And Tim can you point to the federal law that states they do not have to show him the search warrant until after the search is done? I think you got that wrong as stated by Quiet Lurcker above.

Tim this is your worst article ever, I have been reading techdirt for years now and well if this keeps up your going to lose a long time reader. No more crappy article like this ever.

That One Other Not So Random Guy says:

Or, maybe they were just looking for another 3 mil in coins.
“Israel’s prime minister bending Uncle Sam over a pile of dead soldiers” Ummmm. OK. And? Are you trying to say Merkia isn’t Israels bitch? Oh, and before I get called an anti-Semite I am Jewish. AIPAC owns more politicians than you can imagine.

“Abe Ayad “identifies” as a Muslim, which probably makes him a Muslim (distancing use of “identifies” courtesy of, which probably explains why so many of his murals target Jews.” – Wow you really hate Muslims huh Tim?

“enjoy a respite from Ayad’s “antics”” Ahhh I see. When its an “anti-Semite” exercising his first amendment right all of a sudden it becomes antics. Hypocrite much?

“The store’s owner, Abe Ayad, said agents were looking for evidence of food stamp fraud and illegal gun sales. Ayad said no such activity has taken place in the business.” I am guessing he got this from the warrant. And because he is a “Muslim” with “Antics” you are just going to believe the cops even though they left with no guns or food-stamps. Double standard much?

This is one of the shittiest articles I have seen come from TD in a while.

Typical bullshit as soon as someone says or expresses negativity on Israel they are immediately an anti-Semite (Or a self hating Jew), and god forbid if that person also happens to: “associate” themselves as Muslim. Its immediately assumed he “hates” Jewish people, but it couldn’t be that he is unhappy with The State of Israel and what they do. Nah, couldn’t be that, they are angels.

Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2015 @ 5:21pm is correct.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“And because he is a “Muslim” with “Antics” you are just going to believe the cops even though they left with no guns or food-stamps.”

If you’ve got some evidence that the police didn’t actually have a warrant, then by all means present it. Otherwise, you’re just full of it.

Socrates says:

Re: Re: QFT


But let us not forget that we tend to hold Techdirt to a higher standard than most blogs and basically all of main stream media. Both because Techdirt is and have been better than most, and because main stream media is so bad.

Also, attacking religion and ethnicity tends to hurt people. For many it is vital for their self image, and how they define themselves.

Techdirt writers is people too. As is we all. Those images force unwilling people to choose if they belong to a group of “bad people” or choose that it were “bad images” and a “bad cartoonist”. Would we fare better if thus challenged?

I believe that most of us believe we would.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I get accused of antisemitism because I generally support Palestinians over Israelis — neither is terribly appealing, but almost everything Palestinians get accused of doing, the Israelis have done bigger and nastier.

But there’s a dirty little secret most pro-Israel types don’t want you to think about: The main difference between a native Israeli and a native Palestinian is religion — one is Jewish and the other Muslim. Both are of Semitic ancestry.

If you’re pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian you are every bit as antisemitic as someone who is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel.

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Re: [unclear]

I generally support Palestinians

Good, then you will be able to explain: what is a “Palestinian”. It cannot be based on geography unless you carve out an exception following WW2. And it cannot be based on religion, unless it excludes Mohammadens, because many of them live in Israel.

Used to be, it was loosely defined as being a member of the PLO, a group whose main stated goal was the destruction of Israel. But that group has largely folded.

So, pray tell us, what is a “Palestinian”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

He’s obviously biased against BOTH sides, right?

Abe Ayad “identifies” as a Muslim, which probably makes him a Muslim

If you identify as a badger, that doesn’t make you a badger. But if you identify as a Muslim, that pretty much does make you a Muslim. I mean, the belief is the defining characteristic of the group.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well that’s just bad reading comprehension. The next sentence “(distancing use of “identifies” courtesy of”) makes it obvious it’s being used sarcastically because yes, identifying as Muslim makes you Muslim while the publication uses distancing language to imply that he just believes he is one but has no proof or whatever.

Anonymous Coward says:

“According to Cleveland’s NewsNet5, Ayad demanded to see a warrant from the agents, but they were never able to show him one.”

“Law enforcement officers are under no obligation to present the warrant before performing searches or seizures.”

Why don’t you go ahead and delete this one, Tim? You seem to be quite a bit off on the actual narrative here. This is pretty clearly political intimidation.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the police raid was on the up and up why did they shut down the video recorder?

Normally when police turn off the video its because they do not want their illegal actions being recorded. I would be interested to know a logical reason for removing a video feed that would back up whatever they said they did unless of course said video would contradict their actions

Socrates says:

Like a jew painting anti nazi slogans on his shop windows in the 40'ties

Expressing views contrary to the power is often met with suppression, mockery, thinly veiled threats, and harm. He expressed his views loudly. Both common citizens and “law enforcement” tend to have itching trigger fingers when someone they disdain provokes them. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

Just look at the reactions against Sinéad O’Connor when she protested against the Catholic church and the former Pope for letting people raping children on a regular basis, and sabotaging investigations.

Whenever religion is the issue, many seam to believe things and simply choose to ignore actual facts.

Anonymous Coward says:

"score one for the good guys"? Think again...

An unannounced SWAT attack, with the warrant presented after the fact (if at all), might be within the scope of state law in some jurisdictions (I seem to recall claims that Kansas is this way, unfortunately). That does not make it morally right. The good guys, by definition, confine themselves to the subset of actions that are both lawful and morally right. Techdirt has run past stories of “cops behaving well” so we know it can happen. The cops may have been legally justified in this raid, both in the sense of having a warrant and in that the warrant was obtained on true evidence presented to an appropriate judge. However, their conduct in executing the raid does not make them “good guys” in my opinion.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

I agree with a lot of the commenters on this article. It seems to me that this guy does seem to be targeting Judaism (“Sex with minors permited. [sic]” written on the ‘circumcision’ mural), and Tim on behalf of Techdirt seems to be saying it’s okay for LEOs to rob his stamp/coin collection and it’s probably not related to the murals. Whereas when Charlie Hebdo was guilty of an almost identical offence (targeting Islam), Techdirt couldn’t do enough to defend the magazine (albeit the reaction in that case was rather more violent).

Socrates says:

Re: Charlie Hebdo and coverage of religious terrorism

Whereas when Charlie Hebdo was guilty of an almost identical offence (targeting Islam)

Your post could be read as Charlie Hebdo singled out Islam. Charlie Hebdo didn’t. Charlie Hebdo targeted everyone. Violent right wingers, nutty religious people of all dominions, shady politicians, main stream media, and the power. They stepped on many toes.

But yes, their “offense” were identical. (Your point, I presume)

Though almost all main stream media’s coverage on the terror were “criticize Islam, terrorists kill”, from before any identification had been made at all.

It mimicked the early coverage of Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorism closely. It too were “Islam Islam Islam, terrorists kill”, until he were identified and his manifest known. Then he were an “lone wolf” and an immediate and total suppression of any talk of religious terrorism in the mass medias followed. The reason is profoundly clear. Anders Behring Breivik is an anti Islam, pro Israel and pro USA terrorist. He is also a right wing ultra Zionist, and a back-to-the-roots Christian. Thus “lone wolf”.

Pointing this out is not popular. Several scientists have been completely steamrolled by the mass media over this. Actual scientists damage the narrative that it is a struggle between the free world with tolerance of expressed views against fundamentalist Islam.

Justme says:

Legit or harrasment?

This raid seems a little questionable if it was really looking for evidence of food stamp fraud and illegal gun sales.

Food stamp fraud by it self shouldn’t require a swat raid and as for the illegal gun sales, unless they have used an undercover and successfully purchased a weapon or at the very least can show a reasonable attempt to determine the validity of that charge before the raid. Then you would have to question there motivation regardless of legality.

As for the murals, some may take offense, some may see them as true. But everyone should defend his right to display them, because that’s as American as apple pie!

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Do You Really Need the Rest of the Article to Decide

FBI agents shut down the recordings.

That ought to tell you pretty much all you need to know about the legitimacy of the raid.

The fact that the FBI neither records nor permits recordings of their interrogations of suspects may also be instructive as to their reliability. FBI agents rely on their notes rather than biased sources such as recordings.

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