Violence erupted outside the U Otter Stop Inn in Minneapolis’ Northeast neighborhood early Sunday morning in what victims are calling a hate crime. Lauren DeLand says she and her partner Joe Sullivan and three other friends left the bar at closing and once outside became the targets of anti-gay slurs and fists swung by two young men.
DeLand says the group had a brief encounter with one of the men inside the bar when he asked a member of the group if she would like to buy marijuana from him. The woman declined and the group thought nothing of the situation.
As the group packed Sullivan’s bike into a friend’s car at bar close, the same man asked them for a ride home. When the group declined, the man called the group’s driver a “faggot.”
Sullivan responded, “Do you have a problem with queers?”
The man said “Yes,” and approached Sullivan. Sullivan told the man to step back while Sullivan backed away.
That’s when the man charged at the group and knocked two women to the ground and then started punching Sullivan.
DeLand said at that point a bouncer came out of the bar and and attempted to calm the man down, saying to the group, “It’s alright, it’s alright, I know this guy.”
But the man rushed back at Sullivan and began to punch him again. As DeLand and others tried to pry the man off another man who had been with the first assailant joined in. The two men repeatedly called members of the group “faggot” and “nigger.”
DeLand said that while she tried to assist Sullivan, her leg was broken in two places. She also said that while the conflict continued the group urged the bouncer to call 911 and assist in restraining their attacker.
The group then quickly jumped into their vehicle to take DeLand to the hospital. Sullivan suffered cuts and bruises and a black eye. The other members of the group has scrapes and bruises.
DeLand said they attempted to leave earlier. “We wanted to leave but they kept coming,” she told TheColu.mn. She said the two men were white, in their early twenties. One was about 5’6″ and the other about 5’8″.
In an email, DeLand said she wanted the community to know what happened. “I believe that crimes of this nature are all of our problems,” she said. “I am furious that I will be prevented from living my life to the fullest for over three months, and I don’t want something like this to happen to my friends ever again.”
DeLand said the group is asking the Minneapolis Police Department to investigate the case as a bias crime and DeLand said the group has contacted OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group for assistance.
Sgt. Bill Palmer, a Public Information Officer for the MPD, told TheColu.mn that the incident was being investigated as an assault only, and that a decision would come later on whether or not to label the attack as a hate crime. “There is documentation that homophobic and racial slurs were used in the incident,” Palmer told TheColu.mn early Tuesday afternoon. “The determination of a ‘bias crime’ is up to the state attorney. It’s not up to the investigator to decide.”
Denise Freeman, the owner of the U Otter Stop Inn said she is appalled that this would happen on her property and defended her staff.
Freeman said she doesn’t employ a bouncer but instead has a friend at the door who checks identification. She says that the bartender “heard a ruckus and checked out the back door. By that time, the fight had been broken up and police were pulling up.”
“My clientele has never had a problem in the 12 year’s I’ve been there [at the bar],” Freeman said. “My motto has been ‘we are not prejudiced against anyone except assholes.’”
But she admitted that the situation is upsetting. “I wish I would have been there. I’m absolutely livid over this,” she said. “Anyone who treats anyone else poorly is not welcome in my bar… If this was a hate crime, if there were people coming through my bar looking for gays, I want to know, because I will never let them back in my bar.”
Additional reporting by James Sanna