The attorneys, Abre’ Conner and Novella Coleman, wrote about their story on the ACLU’s blog. According to their account of the incident, it all started when they were waiting for their turn to sing karaoke at a bar called Brig. After waiting a half an hour, their turn was finally up, but then the bar employees began giving them a hard time.
“…A bar employee came up and said we had to buy drinks to sing karaoke,” the women wrote. “Another bartender lunged at us within inches of our faces and shouted ‘Buy drinks!’
“Our group of three had already bought two drinks. But it quickly became clear to us that we were unwelcome in the bar.”
Conner and Coleman said that another bartender began shouting that they were loitering and then pushed himself against Conner to get her to leave. She resisted and said “Don’t touch me!” He then called the police.
The women pointed out that others were singing karaoke without drinks and that the rule was only enforced on them, the only Black people in the bar, because of the color of their skin. A server then shouted, “It’s not fair for you to bring up race!”
Once the police came, there were many conflicting accounts of what was happening.
“When the police arrived, several customers explained to the officers that the bar staff were enforcing the rule against us only. Some told the police that a one drink rule did not exist. Others even tried to buy us drinks. But the bartenders wouldn’t let them,” the blog post read.
“And still, the police forced us — two Black women in the bar — to leave.”
The lawyers, who are obviously well-versed in the history of California law, noted that the California legislature passed the Unruh Civil Rights Act in 1959, which barred businesses in the state from refusing service or entry to customers based on race and other protected characteristics.
And although some of the bar employees refused to believe that the treatment of the lawyers was based on race, Conner and Coleman say that being humiliated at Brig was definitely due to being Black and that the employees’ privilege blurred them from being able to see that.
“We’re not the first people that this has happened to. But let’s be clear — no business can kick people out just because they’re Black,” the women wrote.
What do you think of the lawyers’ story? Were they treated unfairly? Do you think the incident was race-