Caroline Downey 6 – 8 minutes
After a skirmish involving NYC’s vaccine mandate and African-American patrons erupted at Carmine’s restaurant in the Upper West Side last week, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York and related organizations converged in front of the establishment Monday to protest and hold a news conference.
The original police report detailed that three black women from Texas got into an altercation with a 24-year-old restaurant hostess on Thursday after she asked them to provide proof of vaccination to eat indoors. However, subsequent information from the attorneys for both Carmine’s and the women revealed that the trio did, in fact, present verification of vaccination to enter.
Shortly after the women’s group was seated, three men arrived to join the party inside, but two were denied entry because they failed to provide vaccination documentation, lawyers from both sides confirmed to the New York Times.
A fight broke out outside when a hostess allegedly used a racial slur and made derogatory remarks directed at the female customers, accusing them of carrying fraudulent vaccination cards, the lawyer who represents one of the women, Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin, who is a doctor, told the Times. Justin Moore, the lawyer, said the women claim the hostess “spewed out” the N-word. After the brawl, NYPD arrested the three black women for investigation of criminal mischief and assault.
Organized by Black Lives Matter Greater New York, demonstrators congregated Monday to clarify the story from their perspective. At the rally, the speakers railed against the racial obscenity that was allegedly uttered as well as the perceived discrimination against the black unvaccinated patrons. While protesters claimed the hostess was white, invoking “white supremacy” multiple times, Carmine’s owner Jeffrey Banks told the New York Post that the employees who he says were violently attacked were black, Latina, and Asian American.
BLM NYC co-founder and chairman Hank Newsome alleged that the restaurant staff treated the black women with hostility and accused Carmine’s of covering up “their employees’ actions by using the vaccination passport as an excuse.” He demanded that Carmine’s release its video footage of the incident, which he believes will settle that the hostess was the antagonizer and that the three women were wrongfully charged.
Succumbing to public pressure, on Tuesday Carmine’s owner Jeffrey Bank released the surveillance tape, which depicts one of the Texas tourists, rather than the hostess, as the aggressor who incited the brawl by throwing the first blow.
“This attack was entirely unprovoked,” Banks told the Post. He also unequivocally denied that any one of his employees made a racial slur.
Chivona Newsome, the other co-founder of BLM NYC, targeted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate more specifically in her remarks. She implied that the edict has resulted in repeats of historical episodes when blacks were disenfranchised from society.
“Being a doctor does not protect you from anti-blackness. Having a vaccination card does not protect you from discrimination. The 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits the actions of Carmine’s. It says it is illegal to discriminate against you on the basis of race,” she said.
“Seventy-two percent of black people in this city from ages 18 to 44 are unvaccinated. So what is going to stop the Gestapo, I mean the NYPD, from rounding up black people, from snatching them off the train, off the bus?” she added.
Chivona Newsome suggested that if these incidents continue, Black Lives Matter could revolt to exact justice like it did after George Floyd’s death.
“We’re putting this city on notice, that your mandate will not be another racist social-distance practice. Black people are not going to stand by, or you will see another uprising. And that is not a threat; that is a promise,” she said. “The vaccination passport is not a free passport to racism.”
Kimberly Bernard, the co-founder of the Black Women’s March, echoed the charge that COVID restrictions are being weaponized against minorities.
“We are serving notice on the mayor, on the governor, on the restaurant industry that we will not allow for you to use this pandemic, vaccination cards, and masks as another reason to be racist, to put us in prison. Because there’s enough of us in there,” she said.
A man from Rise and Resist, a direct-action group that formed in resistance to the 2016 election of former president Donald Trump, turned the conversation to the partisan blame game that’s exploded amid the pandemic.
“The Republican Party and elected officials and pundits on Fox News try to blame the entirety of the unvaccinated COVID crisis on black people, even though black people are twelve percent of the population,” he said.
But while the speaker said the political Right is guilty of pinning the pandemic on the unvaccinated, of whom many are blacks, a female African American in the crowd told National Review a different tale.
A college student with experience in the restaurant industry, Maya, who did not provide her last name, said her community is struggling to recognize that Democrats, not Republicans, are spearheading vaccine mandates and therefore resurrecting racial discrimination and conflict.
“Most black people aren’t going to acknowledge that the Democratic Party has disenfranchised us. Malcom X said it’s foxes and wolves. The fox pretends to be your friend to your face but passes laws behind your back to harm you. The wolf is not your friend, they don’t like you, and they treat you as such. But who do you respect more? Black people tend to fall for the fox,” Maya said.
She said her job is in jeopardy now because she’s refused the vaccine, another issue of economic equity that she says Democrats are not acknowledging.
“This vaccine mandate is disproportionately affecting people of color. People shouldn’t be forced to do it. It’s ‘for your health,’ but they’re willing to ruin people’s lives to protect against a virus with over a 99 percent survival rate. . . This is going to be the new Jim Crow, and it’s going to affect mostly people of color,” she said.