Los Angeles police are investigating a potential hate crime that occurred on Friday night when security staff forcefully removing a group of transgender patrons from a bar was captured on video.
Khloe Perez-Rios went to Las Perlas with a group of her co-workers Friday evening. She tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she and her transgender and queer peers were looking to celebrate a long day of working at DTLA Proud, a local LGBTQ+ festival, when they went to the bar for a bite to eat. But instead of celebrating, the group ended up leaving the establishment traumatized after an altercation.
“This couple comes to our table and starts telling us we’re not women, we are men and that we should leave, and that we don’t belong there. And then quickly, as a trans woman of color and obviously as an activist also, we became really alarmed,” said Perez-Rios, who is the transgender program manager for Bienestar Human Services — a community-based organization focused on protecting the rights of the Latino and LGBTQ populations. “There’s someone bullying us, there’s someone calling us transphobic slurs.”
Still, the confrontation was one that the group figured they could handle in a peaceful manner by not engaging with the initiators. However, when the couple approached the group’s table a second time, one of them allegedly physically assaulted one of the women.
“It became physical,” Perez-Rios says. “We all got up from the table, we tried to protect that person from getting hurt any more. We huddled against each other, tried to keep the aggressors away from her.”
That’s when Perez-Rios says security stepped in. According to her account, the staff hadn’t seen the initial encounter but quickly noticed that the couple was very drunk and “gently” told them to leave. When it came to her group, however, security was much more agitated.
“They start attacking us and they start picking us up and throwing us against the wall and dragging us across the bar,” Perez-Rios explains.
She caught the commotion on video that she later posted to her social media. In the footage, bar security guards are seen grabbing Perez-Rios’s coworkers by the arms and the neck and pulling them out of the bar.
At the end of the clip, one of the bouncers goes up to Perez-Rios and begins yelling at her to get out before allegedly pushing her out the door.
“They threw us out with the aggressors. The aggressors were out on the street with us. At one point we were all scared because the male grabbed a piece of metal from the sidewalk and started throwing it at the metal door of the bar and saying that he was gonna come back and shoot us and kill us,” Perez-Rios says. “The securities weren’t doing anything, and they were outside as well. So when the couple heard the sirens of the police arriving, they immediately took off.”
A second video posted by Perez-Rios shows police gathering information from the transgender women who were dragged out of the bar just moments prior. LAPD addressed its investigation of the incident on Twitter, and mentioned its commitment to “ensuring the safety of every Angeleno, as well as the right of all to live their true lives in peace, harmony, and free from anxiety or fear.”
Whether in public, or inside of a private establishment, all Angelenos deserve the freedom to coexist in harmony. Although we cannot comment on an ongoing investigation, rest assured the LAPD will thoroughly investigate the incident at Las Perlas. https://t.co/eUPqvsMdk8— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) August 25, 2019
The department’s public information officer additionally tells Yahoo Lifestyle that a criminal threats report was completed and the incident is also being investigated as a hate crime.
Las Perlas acknowledged the incident with a statement posted to Facebook on Saturday morning where Cedd Moses — the owner of the bar’s restaurant group, Pouring with Heart — wrote that the establishment has “zero tolerance for this type of behavior.”
A spokesperson for Pouring with Heart additionally provided Yahoo Lifestyle with the following statement:
On Friday night there was an altercation at Las Perlas and our outside security staff removed several patrons from both sides of the altercation. Our first and primary concern, and has been from day one, is to operate a safe place for all people. Period, no exceptions. We regret that didn’t happen Friday night, and want to apologize to all of our guests including the Transgender community, a community who has come to our bar as well as works there. We are taking immediate steps to fully investigate what happened on Friday and to address each concern that we've received since then.
The restaurant also reveals that they have plans to commit to a number of immediate actions items, including hiring a new security company for Las Perlas that has received sensitivity training.
“This incident is not in alignment with who we are and our intent is to prove this in action and deed, not words and hyperbole,” the spokesperson shares.
In response to the restaurant’s initial promise to donate all profits from the weekend of DTLA Proud to Bienestar Human Services, Perez-Rios says that her organization will not be accepting that money.
“I think that the apology that they put out, it felt short. They are not addressing the real issue, which is the use of excessive force against transgender people of color. And instead, they’re turning it into a monetary thing,” she says. “So for us it’s more about the safety, it’s more about changing policies, it’s more about creating change and being respectful of a diverse community, not about money.”
Instead, Perez-Rios says that her community plans to continue rallying against Las Perlas as a group of over one hundred people did on Saturday evening by protesting outside of the restaurant.
With the support of DTLA Proud — which put a statement out on Facebook — and LGBTQ+ advocates like Nicholas Turton, the rally received a lot of attention that Perez-Rios hopes will create more awareness of the violence that transgender people still face. Ultimately, she hopes that these efforts will lead to change.
“We just celebrated 50 years of the Stonewall riots and we’re still continuing to see all this hatred, and all these hate crimes and violence against the LGBTQ+ community,” she says. “From here on, we’re just looking to spread awareness, we want to continue doing protests, we want to continue educating the community and creating safe cities and safe spaces for the Latino LGBTQ+ community, as well as other vulnerable populations.”
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