A widely-shared video showing a group of transgender women being aggressively hauled out of a popular Los Angeles bar is being investigated by local police as a possible hate crime.
Khloe Perez-Rios and Jennifer Bianchi say they were with their co-workers from Bienestar Human Services, a non-profit group which provides health services to Latino and LGBTQ2 communities, at a downtown bar when they were confronted by a man and a woman.
Perez-Rios claims the altercation started when the couple hurled transphobic slurs at them. The group had just finished speaking at DTLA Proud, an annual two-day event that celebrates L.A.’s LGBTQ2 community.
“[They were] calling transphobic slurs to all the people at our table, things like ‘you are all dudes,’ get out of here ‘you faggots,’ you don’t belong here ‘MEN,’” she wrote in a Facebook post, which has garnered more than 2,500 shares since Saturday.
Perez-Rios, who filmed the ordeal on her phone, told the Los Angeles Times that the group was minding their own business and eating when the couple approached their table.
“They said, ‘You guys are all men. You guys don’t belong here,’” she told the Times.
“And we turned around and said, ‘Please leave us alone. We don’t want problems.’”
Perez-Rios said the colleagues became defensive when the man pushed her and slapped one of them. That’s when security got involved, she said.
In the video, a security guard struggles with Bianchi, who can be heard shouting “Don’t touch me like that.” Bianchi tells the man she needs to get her shoe and shoves him back.
The guard pushes Bianchi again before he wraps his arms around her and shuffles her toward an exit.
Seconds later, another a bar employee walks over to a transgender woman seated at the table.
He says, “Come on, we’re done, we’re done,” and appears to pull her out of her seat.
“What happened?” she says to the camera, before being dragged out of the bar.
Bianchi told the Times she believes “excessive force [was] used for no reason” on their group, while the man and woman were merely escorted out.
“Security began to remove the biological women without any force, and all of us from the community were carried out and thrown outside,” Perez-Rios wrote on Facebook.
The group called police and filed a hate crime report, but the man and woman had left the bar before officers arrived.
LAPD confirmed in a tweet that they have launched an investigation. Police refused to elaborate but said the incident would be investigated thoroughly.
“Please know that the Department is committed to ensuring the safety of every Angeleno, as well as the right of all to live their true lives in peace, harmony, and free from anxiety or fear,” LAPD assistant chief Beatrice Girmala tweeted.
The LAPD later told NBC Los Angeles that they were investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Global News reached out to LAPD to independently confirm this but did not receive a response prior to publication.
Hate crimes motivated by bias against sexual orientation and/or gender identity are illegal in the U.S., but state laws can vary slightly.
According to the Movement Advancement Project, only 47 per cent of America’s LGBTQ2 population live in states that have hate crime laws covering sexual orientation and gender identity. Hate crimes are against the law in California, where the incident took place.
Federal statistics are limited on hate crimes specific to transgender people in the U.S. — in part due to “serious under-reporting,” according to the Williams Institute — but advocates say violence against the community is getting worse.
The founder of the company that owns the bar, Cedd Moses, later addressed the situation on Facebook.
Moses said a manager asked both groups to leave, citing the “safety and security” of patrons. He said the guards removed the “not compliant guests… in accordance with company policy,” which has “zero tolerance for this type of behaviour.”
His response spurred backlash from the public.
The outrage turned into a protest outside of the bar on Saturday where more than 100 people attended. Demonstrators crowded the sidewalk, some holding transgender flags, and chanted “close it down!”
After the protest, Moses took up a different tone in a follow-up statement. He listed a number of steps the bar would be taking to address concerns, including hiring a new security team that has sensitivity training.
“Our first and primary concern, and has been from day one, is to operate a safe place for all people. Period, no exceptions,” he wrote on Facebook. “We regret that didn’t happen Friday night, and we want to apologize to all our guests including the Transgender community, a community who has come to our bar as well as works there.”
The women say they have received widespread support since the video took off online, and even met some of the LAPD officers who arrived at the bar that night.
Bianchi told the Times that she hopes their experience would generate kindness for the LGBTQ2 community.
“This cannot happen over and over,” she said. “We are facing so much discrimination and hate.”
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