PNL 6/97: "Denny's Clash: Yes, In Our Town"
The following appears in the June 1997 issue of the PEACE NEWSLETTER (PNL), published monthly by the Syracuse Peace Council in Syracuse, New York/USA:
DENNY'S CLASH: YES, IN OUR TOWN
On April 11, seven Syracuse University students were assaulted in Denny's parking lot on Erie Blvd. East. Three were chapter officers of A.S.I.A. (Asian Students in America). The Filipino American male, Chinese American female, Japanese American female, three international Japanese, and their white male companion had been asked to leave Denny's after they complained that white customers were seated before them. New York City-based AALDEF (Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund) now represents the seven. On May 14, AALDEF said that once outside the restaurant a Denny's security guard had pushed a student. Suddenly, about 20 white patrons rushed out to attack the students. They beat two students unconscious. AALDEF charges that Denny's security guards (oof-duty sheriff's deputies) ignored bystanders' repeated pleas to intervene. Two black students did help, ending a beating which included one young woman kicked in the head. At least two students said DeWitt and Syracuse police arrived during the fray, failing to stop it or detain white attackers. Students also said police denied their request to file a police misconduct complaint and refused students breathalyzer tests after accusing them of being drunk. Word of the attack raced by r-mail through SU and beyond. Queries and offers of help still arrive from across the US, and updates are available, thanks to Asian Buying Consortium's Jimmy Chow, at <http://www.abcflash.com>. On Monday, April 14, eight SU student groups rallied in Schine Student Center and called for a picket of Denny's later that week. Somewhat mysteriously, that action was cancelled. And, despite strong early editorial comment, local media coverage abruptly halted. (Out-of-towners even asked if the incident were an Internet hoax.) Denny's franchise owner Charles Davis apologized and met with the students. As part of the $46 million settlement when a Denny's refused service to black Secret Service agents, the US Dept. of Justice still investigates every Denny's charged with discrimination. But that may mask significant home-grown difficulties. The well-travelled Erie Blvd. East strip separates the city's east and north sides - the latter a site of recent Asian refugee resettlement. Identifying the attackers would clarify whether the parking lot clash was a spill-over of north-side ethnic tensions crossing paths with Asian students. Denny's notoriety may overshadow police conduct too. The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium's "1994 Audit of Violence" found that police themselves commit 50% of reported racial incidents against Asians in New York State. AALDEF attorney Elizabeth OuYang, working on the Denny's case, knows this. Writing in "Policing by Consent" (8/95), she also noted "numerous cases of false arrest, failure of police to record and/or listen to the Asian victim's account..., mistaken identity..., and disparate treatment" by police. Despite coverage in the student paper, "The Daily Orange," SU officials were silent until May 19. Then, in SU's weekly, "The Record," Chancellor Kenneth Shaw explained that SU was too busy ministering to the "five" students and brokering meetings among various parties to "pause" for public outrage until "encouraged" by others to do so. AALDEF requests calls to District Attorney William Fitzpatrick (315/435-2470) to urge active investigation of this case, and to Acting Assistant Attorney General Isabelle Pinzler, Civil Rights Division (202/514-6715), and the DOJ's Civil Rights Monitor, Sharon Leibeck Hartman (213/965-5618), for vigorous federal action. ***** Nancy is a contributing editor of the PNL. **********
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