Police say a possible hate crime may have occurred at the LA bar Las Perlas when a transgender woman and her friends, all LGBT employees of an advocacy group, were verbally and physically assaulted by patrons and bar staff. The assaults, captured in a now-viral video happened ironically as the group was celebrating the first night of Down Town Los Angeles(DTLA).
The trans women, who are employees of the nonprofit Bienestar Human Services, were out celebrating the DTLA Proud festival at the bar when the incident occurred, one of the victims Khloe Perez-Rios told BuzzFeed News.
Two customers, a couple, began harassing them, she said. According to Perez-Rios, the patrons shouted slurs at the women, including telling them in Spanish “you are all dudes” and calling them “faggots.” The couples also allegedly threatened them with violence, saying “we will come back and kill you.”
The male patron then slapped one of the trans women, and “we all huddled around her to protect her,” Perez-Rios said.
“Our first instinct was to get the bully away from us,” she said. “The couple was very drunk and they became more aggressive.”
“Don’t touch me like that!” one of the victims can be heard yelling in the video. The incident that led up to their removal was not filmed.
“They left us out on the street with the aggressors when the police hadn’t arrived, and after the aggressors had threatened us to come back and kill us,” said Perez-Rios.
The couple left when they heard police sirens approaching, she said.
Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson Drake Madison told BuzzFeed News they are investigating the incident between the victims and the couple as a hate crime. They are investigating one suspect involved in the incident, Madison said. He would not comment on the second individual Perez-Rios said participated in the attack.
“Once outside the bar, the suspect threatened to come back to the location and shoot the manager and transgender individuals. The victims stated they were in fear of the suspect,” Madison said.
In a statement on Las Perlas’ Facebook page, bar owner Cedd Moses originally described the incident as “an escalated verbal altercation [that] broke out among two groups of guests.” He said the manager asked both parties to leave “as the safety and security of our patrons and employees is our top priority, and we have zero tolerance for this type of behavior in our establishments.”
“The guards removed the guests that were not compliant with the manager’s request to leave and did so in accordance with company policy,” Moses said. “This was a rare and unfortunate incident as Las Perlas has provided an inclusive and welcoming environment since it opened almost 10 years ago.”
But when Mayor Eric Garcetti issued this statement Las Perlas changed their tune.
“Los Angeles is a place where hate against any person, regardless of gender identity, is not tolerated. My office is in communication with @LAPDHQ about the incident at Las Perlas, and will ensure a proper investigation is completed,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti
Moses, the bar’s owner, then told Buzz Feed News that he would donate all profits from the weekend to Bienestar Human Services. The bar is also hiring a new security staff that has received sensitivity training, and will review tapes of the incident to determine “exactly what happened and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Our first and primary concern, and has been from day one, is to operate a safe place for all people. Period, no exceptions,” a spokesperson for the bar said on Facebook. “We regret that didn’t happen Friday night, and want to apologize to all of our guests including the Transgender community, a community who has come to our bar as well as works there.”