An LGBT+ bar owner in North Carolina was fired at by police during ongoing Black Lives Matter protests for simply running a first aid station on his own property.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd, protests against ongoing police brutality against Black people have broken out across the US.
Tim Lemuel owns Ruby Deluxe in Raleigh, North Carolina, and on Monday night, June 1, he kept watch outside his bar to stop protestors vandalising the building, according to The News and Observer.
In the parking lot of the LGBT+ bar, Lemuel and his staff set up a first aid station for protestors, handing out granola bars, bottled water and helping them wash pepper spray out of their eyes.
They had been there for around seven hours, Lemuel said, before police showed up.
In a widely-circulated video officers can be seen appearing around the corner and shouting: “Move!” The bar owner repeatedly replies: “This is my business, I rent this place.”
But the police officers continue to approach, as Lemuel slowly backs away, shouting: “You’ve been told. I don’t care where you go, you gotta go.”
An officer then fires what appears to be a shotgun, twice, and says: “The game is over. Get out!”
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.4,29122:23 – 31 May 2020Twitter Ads information and privacy2,514 people are talking about this
Eric Curry, a spokesperson for Wake County sheriff’s office, said that the officers were responding to an anonymous tip that the group had been helping Black Lives Matter protestors.
The spokesperson would not name the officers or the weapon used, but described it as “for riot-related crime control”.
Curry added: “We will say only that the strategy to use ‘less-lethal force’ was appropriate, for the safety of subjects. Once deputies urge the crowd to disperse several times and there is non-compliance, the next step is to disperse the crowd.”
The sheriff’s office use of force policy states “that no weapon, either deadly or less-than-lethal will be used against any subject that is offering only passive or verbal resistance”, and that “less-than-lethal” weapons are only appropriate if a person poses “immediate risk of death or serious physical injury to themselves or others and other less forceful options are not reasonably available”.
“I was in the army for eight years, so the bangs didn’t bother me, but my staff were scared out of their minds,” Lemuel said. “If you’ve never been in that situation it appears like you’re going to be killed.”
He said the officers had been watching them, and continued: “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.”
He added on Facebook: “These were queer folks, a marginalised group that already has to actively avoid being attacked just living their day to day lives.”
Raleigh city council member Nicole Stewart said of the incident: “I was quite distraught. Had it been anybody, it would have been bad enough. The idea that it was an individual, a business owner, trying to help other individuals in our community made it that much more startling. And I couldn’t let it sit.”
Stewart is calling on police chief Cassandra Deck-Brown to investigate the incident.