- The Magazine
Local activists are calling for a boycott of Nellie’s Sports Bar and demanding that it be shut down after a woman was dragged down a flight of stairs by a security guard.
Nellie’s fired an independent security vendor and closed for the week after outcry over a video of 22-year-old Keisha Young being pulled down the stairs by her arms and hair. Young said she was mistaken for another patron who had brought an open container of alcohol into the bar.
The viral video led to dozens of people protesting outside the bar on Sunday, as well as condemnation from local LGBTQ organizations.
Now, three local organizations — DC Ward One Mutual Aid, Harriet’s Dreams, and The Palm Collective — are urging a boycott of Nellie’s and organizing a protest on Friday, June 18, outside the bar’s U Street location.
In addition to boycotting Nellie’s, the groups issued three demands on social media, the first of which is that Nellie’s and its owner, Doug Schantz, “issue a full public apology” to Young.
Organizers also want Schantz and Nellie’s management team to “attend a public community listening session,” as well as “agree to reparations for the Black queer & trans community of D.C. and shut [Nellie’s] down completely.”
In a joint statement, the organizations called Nellie’s response to the incident “an absolute outrage.”
“Nellie’s had multiple opportunities to truly hold themselves accountable for the harm they’ve caused, but instead, they treated Keisha’s brutalization as an isolated incident rather than part of an historic pattern of anti-Blackness and pro-cop behavior,” they said.
“It’s obvious that Nellie’s owners believe they can lay low for a few days and return to business as usual after social media channels calm down,” the groups added. “The problem is that business as usual is a pattern of racist abuse against and exploitation of Black LGBTQAI+ people in Ward One and D.C. We’re here to say, enough is enough.”
Brandon Burrell, Young’s attorney, told FOX 5 DC that they have discussed filing a lawsuit and a police complaint, but wanted to give Nellie’s time to reach out directly to Young.
As of last night, that contact had yet to occur, Washington City Paper‘s Amanda Michelle Gomez tweeted.
Burrell also called for Nellie’s to release security footage of the incident, after a new video was shared on social media showing an excerpt of events prior to Young being dragged down the stairs.
In the video, Young can be seen at the top of the stairs in Nellie’s with at least five other people — including what appears to be two security guards.
The video, which lacks additional context, shows Young striking a man who is grappling with another man — Young’s cousin, according to her attorney.
Young, who is on a higher step than the men below her, is then pulled down through the group by at least two of the men — including one of the security personnel — and thrown onto the steps below the group.
She responds by striking the security guard who yanked her down, and the video ends with Young being knocked further down the stairs by the security guard.
NEW VIDEO: Witness footage appears to show what happened moments before security dragged a Black woman down the stairs by her hair at Nellies Sports Bar.
— Michael Quander WUSA9 (@MikeQReports) June 16, 2021
In a statement to FOX 5 DC, Burrell wrote, “Just as one can defend one’s self, the law allows one to defend others that are in imminent danger of bodily harm.
“Multiple security guards and other staff of Nellie’s Sports Bar were pummeling Keisha Young’s cousin, Dayon Kidd, at the top of the staircase,” Burrell continued. “This physical altercation was initiated by Nellie’s staff when they mistook Ms. Young for another Black woman that allegedly brought a bottle into the establishment.”
Burrell said Young was dragged down the stairs because she “tried to protect her family.”
“The actions of Nellie’s staff were not justified,” Burrell added. “Any ambiguity concerning what happened that night can be dispelled by Nellie’s releasing the video surveillance.”
Doug Schantz, the owner of Nellie’s, could not be reached for comment.
D.C.’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration confirmed that it is investigating the incident, with Mayor Muriel Bowser telling FOX 5 DC, “Entrepreneurs enforce rules in their restaurants but they’re not allowed to assault anybody…and if that’s a matter, DC police will take it up.”
Ward 2 Councilmember Brooke Pinto issued a statement calling the video of Young being pulled down the stairs “nauseating.”
“Violence and aggressive behavior against women and people of color is completely unacceptable,” Pinto said. “This incident is particularly upsetting given that this establishment touts itself as a safe space for all. I support a full investigation of what occurred.”
Multiple local organizations have condemned Young’s treatment, including Team DC, The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC, DC’s Different Drummers, and the Capital Pride Alliance, which called out the “reprehensible actions taken by Nellie’s staff over the weekend.”
The DC Center called Young’s treatment “unacceptable” and demanded that Nellie’s “take reparative action for this and prior harm caused to the community.”
Stonewall Kickball responded to the “horrifying incident” by removing Nellie’s as a sponsor of the league, “effective immediately.”
Whitman-Walker Health, the federally-qualified community health center that specializes in LGBTQ-competent and HIV-related care, tweeted that it was “not the first time we have heard calls for respect for Black patrons of Nellie’s Sports Bar.”
“This past weekend, security staff violently removed Keisha, a Black woman, from the Nellie’s Sports Bar facility,” Whitman-Walker said. “The calls for justice for Keisha and the calls for respect for Black patrons must be heard. This physical removal at Nellie’s is inexcusable and is a reminder to all organizations, businesses, and communities — ourselves included — that ensuring that Black Lives Matter is more than hanging a sign, attending a march, or closing for #Juneteenth. We are grateful that Keisha is in good physical health.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!