On Halloween night, comedian Akilah Hughes was at a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when, she says, a man in an afro wig began to harass her and her friends. They left, and by the end of the encounter, she alleges she’d been punched in the face outside the Crown Victoria, a bar just a block away, as security guards stood by indifferently. Since then, Hughes has led a one-woman social media campaign that has put the Crown Vic on the defensive.
Hughes tells Jezebel that around 1:30 am on Saturday, the seemingly drunk unidentified man put his hands in her hair and got in her face at a bar called Freehold. After a brief, nonviolent altercation between the man and his girlfriend and Hughes and her friends, she says the man was ejected from the bar. She and her friends left soon afterwards and began to walk towards a main thoroughfare to catch a cab.
Her friends re-encountered the couple a block away on the sidewalk outside Crown Vic, a sprawling bar with a patio and a number of picnic tables out front. Hughes says it was then that she was attacked.
“He hit me in the face and then he started beating me, and my friend Vlad threw him off of me,” she says. “They got into this huge scuffle, they were punching each other. I was getting my mace so I sprayed his girlfriend and then I chased him down the street and sprayed him and they ran off.”
According to Hughes, the security guards standing outside the bar—technically employees of a separate hired security firm and not the Crown Victoria—were unfazed.
“One of the security guards basically was like, ‘You need to be careful where you’re spraying that mace,” she says. “And I was like, ‘Excuse me?’ And he was like, ‘Well, I could’ve gotten some in my eye.’”
Hughes then asked for ice for her friend, to which he reportedly said, “We don’t have to do that.” Then he brought out one of the bar’s employees.
“Basically he comes out and he’s like, ‘Oh, so you’re the one who got punched in the face? I can see it because you’re really annoying.’ And I said, ‘Excuse me?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I’m sure it happens all the time.’”
At that point, Hughes started filming.
Her friends called the police, and they waited to make a police report. All the while, Hughes alleges, the employee kept coming over to them, an occurrence she says she also got on camera.
“I just haven’t posted it anywhere yet because I’m just waiting,” she told Jezebel (before the bar had officially responded). “I’m just slowly gonna release the deck of cards until they make an apology.”
When the police finally arrived, Hughes says the employee kept interrupting, telling the cop that she was exaggerating. The cops eventually told her that they thought her attacker would be easy to identify given the presence of security cameras at both bars, and his notable costume. They were able to file a police report on the street, and she and her friends took cabs home.
“You cannot tell women who are literally punched in front of your security guards that they deserved it and that you aren’t obligated to help them because you maybe could get maced in their face when they are attacked and trying to get someone off of them,” Hughes says now. “That’s unacceptable.”
“I absolutely will never go to another establishment where the people who are supposed to be outside protecting people are nervous that they might get hit by mace. It’s like, why the fuck are you a security guard?”
The next morning, Hughes, who has nearly 18,000 Twitter followers, made it her mission to spread the word about her attack, as well as Crown Vic’s reaction.
She put out a call to action:
Hughes also wrote about her experience in a searing blog post:
NO ONE deserves to be abused and the fact that three grown men watched a woman get punched in the face and refused to help her is reason for me to believe that they aren’t looking out for you and they absolutely WILL NOT protect you if you go there.
You will get roofied.
You will get raped.
You might get beaten.
And THEY. WILL. BLAME. YOU. FOR. IT.
There are plenty of bars to chill with friends in that neighborhood. DO NOT RISK GOING TO CROWN VICTORIA BAR AND BEER GARDENS IN WILLIAMSBURG. It might save your life.
LINKS TO HELP ME TEAR THAT ESTABLISHMENT TO THE GROUND:
Phone Number: (917) 719-6072
PLEASE REBLOG, REVIEW THEM, CALL THEM–EVEN IF YOU DON’T LIVE IN BROOKLYN OR NEW YORK CITY. WE NEED TO PROTECT WOMEN AT HOME AND ELSEWHERE.
The bar’s Facebook and Yelp pages have since been flooded with negative reviews pegged to Hughes’ experience, to the extent that it has triggered an “active cleanup alert,” which is Yelp’s term for when a place is subject to a deluge of biased views based on news coverage. In this case, though, there hasn’t been any official news coverage up until this point; just Hughes’ report of the incident.
The bar seems to have removed negative Facebook comments on pre-existing posts, but the establishment is unable to touch official reviews. Meanwhile, scores of tweets have been sent in support of Hughes’s cause.
Common decency would require any onlooker—especially ones who are security professionals—to attempt to intervene while witnessing an attack. But things get murkier when we consider whether the bar’s employees and contracted security personnel were legally required to attend to Hughes.
According to Cynthia Godsoe, an assistant professor at Brooklyn Law School, the bar is technically responsible for their sidewalks, thanks to a 2003 law intended to shift responsibility from the city to property owners. Still, Godsoe is uncertain that the law requires an establishment to help someone who had not previously been inside.
“In general, there’s no obligation for strangers, or basically anyone, to help anyone else. There’s no duty to help anyone or even to report a crime, unless you’re related to the person [in some way],” Godsoe told Jezebel.
“A lot of countries have a duty to rescue but the U.S. does not. So basically you can just walk away.”
A statement from Crown Vic released Monday evening apologizes for the incident and notes that the employee and security guards involved have been fired:
Having taken the time to review all camera footage and speak to all members of staff present, we want to address the incident that took place on the sidewalk near Crown Victoria on November 1st around 1:30 a.m. While we are unable to see the incident on our security camera footage as it did not occur on our premises, it is clear that the behavior of members of our staff in the aftermath was wholly unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Therefore, the security staff and the manager in question have been terminated.
We would like to point out that two of our three managers and five of our six bartenders are female, and that this behavior is not representative of the actions of our staff as a whole. Earlier this morning, we reached out to Akilah and we look forward to speaking with her to offer our sincere apologies.
“I just felt like I was standing up for 17-year-old me who didn’t have any sort of platform when men were horrible to her publicly,” Hughes tells Jezebel. “So of course I’m gonna use the platform that I have to raise awareness of the fact that if you’re a woman and you live in Williamsburg and you end up at this bar, they don’t have your back. They clearly don’t.”
Hughes has since spoken with Crown Vic owner Richard Kelly, who she says was adequately remorseful.
Jezebel also spoke with Kelly, who reiterated that upon learning of the attack online, he went straight to the bar—an impulse that was rendered difficult due to the New York City marathon blocking his path. Ultimately, upon viewing the security footage, he came to the conclusion that the employees involved needed to be fired.
However, the bar now has to face the lasting ramifications of the social media campaign. Kelly said his remaining staff (consisting, as noted, of two female managers, five female bartenders, and one male bartender) are now fielding up to 20 calls a day, many of which are vulgar or verbally abusive.
“We’ve now unfortunately encountered a campaign of harassment where people are calling our phone line and screaming abuse and threats at us,” he tells Jezebel. “Our female bartenders are now in fear of working here.”
Kelly emailed one such voicemail the bar received on Tuesday at 11:11 am. In it, a man’s voice shouts, “You guys are all a bunch of fucking pussies. If I see one of you mark fucking bitches, I’m going to make sure you guys do it you fucking pussies.”
Hughes’ blogpost and social media campaign ostensibly had a positive outcome, in that it resulted in empathy-deficient security personnel losing their jobs. But what happens to Crown Vic now, and to its female employees? Should an establishment be subject to daily harassment even after it has seemingly swiftly dealt with the offending employees? Can you unexplode a social media bomb?
“It seems that in defense of a female,” Kelly continued, “this campaign is working against the women that are working at Crown Victoria, and I would really ask people to think twice. You know, that these actions might be counterproductive.”
Hughes considers the positive effects of the campaign encouraging. “I think I got lucky in how many people have responded and have been honest and actually live in the area and are vowing not to go back,” she said, “because if I didn’t have the audience that I have, no one would give a shit.”
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