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NC: Racist Raleigh bar caught trying to keep itself Negro-free in 2012

I’m sorry to report absolutely disgusting news again about goings-on in my state of NC. On Tuesday I blogged about the 10-year-old NC school boy strip-searched for $20 that he didn’t steal; today it’s an establishment in the capital city of Raleigh that has been caught trying to keep the Negroes out despite the fact that the Federal Civil Rights Act guarantees all people the right to “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Welcome to the Downtown Sports Bar and Grill on Glenwood South in Raleigh (its Facebook page here), where this lovely list of rules of entry has been on display (according to coverage on Jezebel). A Raleigh native, 21-year-old Jonathan Wall, headed to grad school at Harvard, went with two friends to this establishment and experienced, um, hospitality that was a throwback to the good-old-days, chronicled in full by Wall’s friend Philip Christman on his blog. Via Jezebel:

Last Saturday, June 16th, Wall and two other friends arrived at Downtown Sports Bar and Grill around 12:30 AM. “You need a membership to come in tonight,” the bouncer told them. “I’ve never seen you here before.” The friends were confused, since the bar is better known for its all-you-can-eat wings and massive TVs than fancy private parties — and because the people in line before them walked right in after showing their ID.

The only difference between those people and my friends and I was our race. Still, we stood at the door in bewilderment asking “What?” as he further tried to explain that we weren’t going to be able to come in because of our “non-member” status. However, as he was explaining this, a police officer walked up to where he was standing to tell him something unrelated. As soon as he caught sight of the officer beside him, he said “Never mind, y’all go ahead.” This was the first interesting ordeal of the night, but not the last.

Once inside, Wall was accosted by an employee [who he later learned was the bar’s manager] after standing near the bar by himself for a few moments. “Either buy a drink or leave right now,” the man told him. Wall said he was waiting for his friend to come back from the bathroom, but man insisted he had to buy a drink right away. When Wall continued to look for his friend, the employee physically attacked him:

After he cleaned the table, it looked as if he was headed back behind the bar when he came up to me and said “Either buy a drink or leave right now.” Again shocked, I replied “I’m just waiting for my friend to come back from the bathroom.” He responded, “I don’t care, get a drink or leave right now.” I said “Okay” and began texting. He walked away from me, then went and sat with his back to the bar as he stared me down. Being non-confrontational, I looked towards the bathroom, waiting to see my friend come out so that we could leave. I also took notice of how many of the people surrounding the bar and the club area didn’t have drinks in their hands. I felt as if I was singled out. The common denominator, again, was that I was the only black person around. After staring me down for about 30 seconds, he walked back over and said “Are you going to buy a drink, or are you going to leave?” I replied, “As soon as my friend comes from the bathroom.” Before I cold utter another word, he grabbed my right wrist and my left arm and threw them behind my head in an effort to constrain me, although I was speaking to him a calm and non-aggressive tone and didn’t once even gesture. He then used excessive force to push me through the crown and out of the club while I was still in this “headlock” of sorts, before pushing me out of the front door. As soon as he grabbed me, I let my body go limp because with the degree of force he was already using, I didn’t want him to think I was trying to fight back. I accepted that he was on an ego-trip, and let him guide me through the club in this position before pushing me out. I was completely shocked and more saddened that this was happening than angry.

New Raleigh has been covering this, and identified the man who roughed up Wall.

The man who put his hands on Mr. Wall and kicked him out is Todd Chriscoe, seen here and here for previous infractions, and is said to have done this many times before to others.

We spoke with Mr. Wall tonight and he told us that he has “received over 50 emails and messages, about half from people who’ve been in situations similar to mine. The only unique aspect of my story is that I didn’t let the request for “membership” at the door stop me from going in. A few others were kicked out, but most were just refused entry at the door, as the bouncer tried to refuse entry to my two friends and I.”

The sad part about this is the bar seems to be trying to enforce a “you don’t belong here” policy relative to multiple factors, including race and dress. Unfortunately, when you look through the photos of the bar, there’s nothing upscale about the place and it’s basically a glorified sports bar trying to weed out customers based on petty, and possibly illegal, factors. Living in the progressive city that Raleigh has become over the past few years, it’s very unfortunate to see this narrow-minded behavior happening in our city. Pretty sure it’s 2012, not 1812.

What makes matters even worse, and the Raleigh Police Department is going to have to answer for this, is the cavalier way it dismissed Wall’s attempt to report the incident, saying quite bluntly that it’s too much paperwork and effort to do anything about a charge of discrimination and race-based assault in their city, even after acknowledging this kind of crap goes on all the time. Wall:

After about ten minutes and two redirections I was able to talk to the police sergeant, who was also on Glennwood. I explained to her everything in the previous paragraphs. She told me that this was a very unfortunate occurrence, but not an isolated instance. She explained that this happens all the time, and that if she approached the bartender about it, he’d have witnesses that would corroborate whatever story he made up as to why he kicked me out in such an aggressive manner. She then explained that my options were limited because if she proceeded with getting statements from both of us and conducted an investigation, the end result could be worse for me: either it would get dismissed in court, or we would both be charged with what is the equivalent of “fighting” and both have a misdemeanor. She said “He probably has a few charges already, but you’re young with a bright future ahead of you, and you don’t want that on your record.”

I understood what she was saying, but wasn’t exactly sure whether I should trust a police officer within the network of bouncers/officers who worked the many clubs/bars of Glenwood. Just then, the man who threw me out came to the front door. I pointed him out to the officer, and she approached him to talk about the incident. They talked for about 3 minutes before she came back to me and said, “I knew this was going to happen. Now, I don’t believe him one bit, but he says that he has three people who witnessed you throw an elbow at him before he restrained you.” Shocked is an understatement. As I said earlier, I talked in a non-confrontational, calm and respectful tone, and didn’t even gesture when talking. There is no way that he could have perceived me as having thrown an elbow and I didn’t understand how three people would lie and say that I did. I asked the officer about video camera footage. If the club used cameras, they would show the conversation, and his aggressiveness in constraining me despite me posing no threat and remaining calm throughout the conversation and his constraining me. She said that it would require a search warrant and that there was “No telling” how the video could be edited, tampered with, or even done away with before it would be required to be handed over to the investigators.

What troubled me about my conversation with the officer was that she seemed to assume the worst case scenario in every possible solution to my encounter. She kept talking about how much paper work would be involved, as if that were going to deter me from seeking justice. Still, it was 2am, and after speaking to both of my parents and my friends, I realized that justice couldn’t be served that night. Because of the lack of witnesses, it would simply be my word versus his (and that of his three “witnesses”), which could potentially yield extremely negative consequences for me, even though I had done nothing wrong throughout the entirety of the ordeal.

We don’t spend much leisure time in Raleigh, so I cannot speak to the climate of race relations there; I can say that I’ve never experienced any sort of crap like that in any restaurant or business in Durham. Our capital city needs to address its response to serious charges like this in order to reassure its black residents and visitors that they can enter any public establishment free of any sort of harassment, and certainly not assault. That’s not a lot to ask in 2012, you’d think.

Or perhaps the city would like to see Negro dollars spent elsewhere. It’s their choice. But it’s clear — no one of any color should patronize the Downtown Sports Bar and Grill.

A Facebook group has been launched, Stop Race Discrimination at Down Town Sports Bar NOW. There is protest march planned on Saturday. More information here.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding