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A sports bar in Raleigh, North Carolina has sparked outrage for repeatedly denying entry to black customers, with no apparent consequence from local law enforcement. The most recent instance occurred June 16th when Jonathan Wall, a 21-year-old Harvard-bound college student from Raleigh, North Carolina, arrived at Downtown Sports Bar and Grill. Wall and his two friends were first hassled when the bouncer told the group they needed a membership to enter the bar. The bar is known to be a causal sports bar so the assertion that it was members-only club was the first indication that there might be a problem. According to Wall, when the bouncer noticed a police officer outside the bar, he allowed Wall and his friends to enter the bar.
Once inside the bar Wall was confronted by a hostile employee, who he later learned was the bar’s manager, and was identified as Todd Chriscoe. As Wall tells the story, Chriscoe approached him in a rather aggressive manner and demanded that he buy a drink immediately or leave the bar. Wall was waiting for his friends to return form the bathroom and told Chriscoe he would be drinking but was only waiting for his friend to return. After a few moments, when Wall’s friend hadn’t returned form the bathroom, Chriscoe allegedly attacked Wall and began to physically remove him from the bar.
“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 [in a] calm and non-aggressive tone and didn’t once even gesture. He then used excessive force to push me through the crowd 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.”
Once outside, Wall found a police officer standing outside and tried to explain what had just occurred. The officer spoke with both parties, but encouraged Wall to overlook the episode, telling him she knew something like this would happen once he entered the bar.
“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.”
What disturbed Wall most was the officer’s casual response to the incident and “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,” Wall explained to friends after the encounter.
After Wall’s former professor at the North Carolina Central University, Philip Christman, posted Wall’s account of the incident on his blog yesterday, other African-Americans began to post comments on Christaman’s blog relaying similar experiences at Downtown Sports Bar and Grill in Raleigh. There are now more than a dozen posts telling tales of racial discrimination at the same bar and others in the area.
Now, Wall and others have embarked on an social media campaign to have the bar shut down and are demanding action on the part of local law enforcement and the City of Raleigh.
The incident has spawned a Facebook page, ‘Stop Race Discrimination at Downtown Sports bar NOW’ and has over 3000 followers. On the page, followers tell tales of similar experiences, share legal advice and seem to be building a ground swell of support that may result in serious consequences for the bar and law enforcement for allegedly overlooking these accounts of racial discrimination.