The owner of an LGBTQ bar in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, and his employees were yelled at, followed by, and targeted with what appeared to be flash-bang shots earlier this week, after law enforcement demanded they remove themselves from the premises of their own establishment.
Tim Lemuel, owner of the Ruby Deluxe bar, said that his business was vandalized on Saturday evening with white supremacist symbols on the outside of the building. The windows and glass doors to the bar were also broken.
Lemuel decided to be present at his place of business on Sunday evening, in part to deter more vandalism but also to do something proactive at the same time — provide a first aid station in the parking lot of the bar, and to pass out water bottles and granola bars to those participating in the demonstrations.
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Lemuel and his employees did so for several hours without incident, but around midnight members of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office arrived and forcefully demanded they leave. One of Lemuel’s employees documented the exchange between themselves and the deputies.
“This is my business. I rent this space,” Lemuel is heard telling the officers in the now-viral video. He started walking back to go inside as deputies continued to berate him.
RALEIGH POLICE JUST FIRED FLASH BANGS AND LESS LETHAL ROUNDS AT MEDICS, INCLUDING THE OWNER OF RUBY’S DELUXE, A QUEER BAR WHERE THE MEDICS WERE STATIONED. pic.twitter.com/sGckVjRC1e
— film pigs not ppl ☭ (@bennykoval) June 1, 2020
“You’ve been told!” an officer shouted back to him. What appears to be a shotgun flash-bang was then discharged toward Lemuel and his workers. “The game is over!” the officer added.
Lemuel noted that police had passed by their establishment throughout the evening without incident. The demands for them to leave the premises were not preceded by any requests that could have been made in a calmer fashion, he added.
“During the seven hours, they had, you know, every opportunity to come down and check on us, see what was going on or tell us their concerns. They just chose not to. And at some point they just went straight for guns blazing,” Lemuel said.
One of the bar’s employees, Jen Varani, noted they weren’t acting as if they were part of the protests, either.
“But we weren’t chanting. We weren’t yelling. We weren’t gesturing to them. There was nothing that we were doing to instigate a response like that,” Varani said.
A spokesperson later tried to defend the deputies’ use of force on Sunday night, although they wouldn’t detail what weapons were used in the incident.
“We will say only that the strategy to use ‘less-lethal force’ was appropriate, for the safety of subjects,” the spokesperson said. “Once deputies urge the crowd to disperse several times and there is non-compliance, the next step is to disperse the crowd.”
But the use-of-force policy for the Wake County Sheriff’s Office states that neither lethal nor “less-than-lethal” force can be used if individuals are putting up only passive or verbal resistance to deputies’ demands. Such use of weaponry requires “an immediate risk of death or serious physical injury to themselves or others,” that policy reads.
According to the video that was shared on social media, it didn’t appear that anyone involved in the altercation was posing such a risk.
Lemuel added that the situation was incredibly frightening for his workers.
“I was in the army for eight years, so the bangs didn’t bother me, but my staff were scared out of their minds,” he said. “If you’ve never been in that situation it appears like you’re going to be killed.”