A group of LGBTQ+ patrons thrown out of a downtown Los Angeles bar have asked for a public apology from the establishment.
Fernanda Celarie, Jennifer Bianchi, Khloe Perez-Rios, and Jorge Diaz were at Las Perlas on August 23 when a conflict broke out. According to the group, an unidentified straight couple began harassing them as soon as they were seated. Eventually, the couple became physically abusive toward the group.
"When we tried to intervene to prevent injury to Fernanda, the transphobic couple only became more violent," Perez-Rios said at a press conference this week, as the local news station NBC Los Angeles was the first to report. "The female aggressor threw punches at me. The couple then threatened our lives by saying 'I'm going to come back and kill you all.'”
At that point, security forced both the couple and the group to leave the business. The group resisted, knowing they would be forced out onto the street next to the couple who had just threatened to kill them.
The ejection was captured in a video that was widely shared afterwards. Security guards are seen physically grabbing the LGBTQ+ patrons, aggressively dragging them from the establishment. "I asked management numerous times to call 911 but they failed to do so," Diaz said of the interaction. "I asked them numerous times not to remove us from their establishment, but they failed to listen."
"This horrifying experience was humiliating, physically damaging and emotionally traumatizing," Bianchi added.
The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime. The group of queer and trans patrons consisted of staff and volunteers from Bienestar Human Services, a nonprofit serving health needs of Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities. They had just spoken at DTLA Proud, an annual LGBTQ+ event in downtown L.A., when they decided to relax at Las Perlas due to its proximity to other local gay bars.
Las Perlas is owned by a company called Pouring With Heart, which responded to the incident with a statement promising to hire a new security company that had received sensitivity training.
"We… 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,” said a company statement. “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 victims are asking that Pouring with Heart hire transgender employees with training in LGBTQ+ issues and that the company bring in advocates and hate crime victims for sensitivity training.
They are also asking for an apology from the CEO of the company, Cedd Moses.
A report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism indicates that L.A. saw an increase in hate crime reports last year. LGBTQ+ individuals were among the most frequently targeted groups, with an almost 40 percent increase in hate crimes related to sexual orientation between 2017 and 2018.