Two men said they were assaulted earlier this month at the Golden Margarita bar in Downtown Phoenix by another patron for being gay.
In a press conference on April 17, a week after the incident occurred, the West Valley NAACP and Unity Collective spoke about the incident and called for an apology and release of video footage of the incident.
The victims, Rudy Haro and Fernando De Los Reyes Lugo, were at the bar to celebrate a birthday and anniversary when they were assaulted, the Arizona Republic reported. In a video posted to Instagram by “gayprideapparel” that has since been taken down, Haro detailed what happened and showed De Los Reyes Lugo with bloodstains on his shirt, the Arizona Republic said.
Haro was told by another patron that he didn’t belong in the bar because of his sexual orientation and then was pushed outside and attacked. De Los Reyes, who went outside to get his ID, was assaulted when he came back, Unity Collective leader Kenneth Smith said.
Police were called to the scene but were dismissive of the assault according to Haro and De Los Reyes Lugo’s account of what happened, Smith said. Personnel from the Phoenix fire department treated both men’s wounds onsite.
“There was witness recollection, as well as residents that were there, that were at the press conference, that talked about the screams and the beating that they heard during the attack and how traumatic it was,” Smith said.
Since the incident, both men have dealt with trauma and PTSD, as well as physical injuries Smith said. They have been spending time with family since the ordeal happened.
The West Valley NAACP and Unity Collective believe that the attack was motivated by the men’s sexual orientation, while a manager at Golden Margarita told ABC15 that the incident occurred because of issues involving personal space. Currently, security footage from the Golden Margarita has not been made public.
“We would never intentionally go out and disparage a business if there was clear proof that this has not happened the way that the patrons said it happened,” Smith said. “However, if you're not offering the information, then it doesn't help for us to be able to support our community appropriately. So if you're about our community, then you need to be about our community 100% and not just trying to protect your business.”
The activist groups have been working closely with the Phoenix Police Bias Crime bureau to see if there was any bias in the attack and how police responded.
“There can't be a biased crime unless we can see that there was a biased crime and a crime against our LGBT brothers and sisters. I'm just concerned that, you know, it's easy to say it's a personal space issue; the person went to a reserved area and they weren't supposed to be there and the (other) person, of course, reacted to that,” Smith said. “Things happen, you know, it's a restaurant or a bar, things happen. However, how you choose to engage the LGBT community needs to be held accounted for.”
Albert Meeks, a manager at the Golden Margarita, said in a video posted on Instagram that he would not work at the bar if he felt any discrimination against his sexual orientation or race.
“In this situation, we have not released videos because of the fact that it will also make the parties that were involved look worse than what it is,” Meeks said in the video. “That and it'll also make the people that fueled the fire look somewhat less than smart.”
The Golden Margarita released a statement on Facebook on April 15 addressed to the LGBTQ community. The bar said that they are big on having a welcoming environment for everyone and that they don’t discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation or race.
“We have done an internal investigation with our owners as well as our upper management to rectify any issue to prevent any issues from occurring in the future,” the statement said.
Meeks said that he hosts numerous inclusive events at the Golden Margarita for the LGBTQ community. He also said that he has reached out to everyone involved in the incident but had not heard back before posting the video.
“In this situation, we all could have done better, but when things happen outside of our venue, we are not liable for anything that happens outside of our venue,” Meeks said in the video.