Black veteran escorted by police from yogurt shop pushes boycott, possible litigation
By KCPQ-TV Published: November 21, 2018
KIRKLAND, Wash. (Tribune News Service) — A black veteran removed by police from a yogurt shop in Kirkland, Wash. says he’s pushing for a boycott and stiff penalties for those involved.
Kirkland Police asked 31-year-old Byron Ragland, who is black, to leave a Menchies yogurt shop after two white female employees had their manager call 911 saying he was suspicious and made them afraid. Although the city issued an apology on Monday, Ragland says he wants actions not words.
“I haven’t slept through the night since this incident happened and I know neither have my parents either,” said Ragland.
Ragland, an Air Force veteran and University of Washington student, is a court appointed special advocate who was conducting a supervised visit between a mother and her son at the store on Nov. 7th.
“He looks suspicious,” said Menchies Kirkland owner Ramon Cruz during a 911 call.
Cruz told dispatch the suspicious man was African-American and his two white female workers were afraid of him.
"All my staff are women and they’re kind of just scared," Cruz said during the call. "All he does is look at his phone, look at them, look at his phone, look at them.”
Shortly after, Kirkland Police showed up and told Ragland to ‘move along’ — that’s even after Ragland says he told them he was there by court order.
Ragland says he and his family have suffered a great deal of trauma since the incident.
“What about the trauma of all the black American families who did not make it out of their interactions with police alive?” asked Ragland.
What he wants is clear.
“We definitely should boycott this store. Those two young ladies that were very petrified they definitely should take a break from work — especially the customer service realm,” said Ragland.
The Menchies is closed for training of employees, according to a sign posted at the business. An apology from the owner who expresses his regret saying his employees will learn from this incident is also posted.
“The training should’ve happened before you got hired. Not after this incident,” said NAACP Seattle King County President Gerald Hankerson.
Ragland and his supporters aren’t putting the blame solely on the owner. The police officers — who didn’t arrest Ragland or charge him with a crime but forced him to leave — are under internal investigation.
“The investigation is still pending but what we’re certain of is that it really was a missed opportunity," said City of Kirkland Communications Program Manager Kellie Stickney. "We could’ve come in and mitigated the situation between the business owner and Mr. Ragland and the individuals with him and we didn’t do that.”
Ragland’s lawyer James Bible says the city’s response is too little too late.
“I do believe it violates the laws of discrimination which are present in the state of Washington and the United States of America,” said Bible.
Bible says litigation is likely and Ragland says he wants the shop owner Ramon Cruz out of business.
“That’s how you punish white supremacy and anti-black behavior. You hit it hard and you hit it fast right in its pockets,” said Ragland.
A fellow veteran from nearby Renton says he’ll join Ragland in boycotting Menchies and anywhere else these incidents happen.
“We are not oversensitive. We are not. We are just tired of not being treated with respect and dignity,” said Aaron Hazard, who served in the Vietnam War.
Next Tuesday, the city of Kirkland plans to hold a community town hall to discuss race relations, implicit bias, and ways to move forward from the incident.