Thursday, March 29, 2007

Denny’s Incident: 10 Year Remembrance

Mission Statement

On April 11, 1997, a group of three Asian American students, three Japanese international students and one white student exited Denny’s restaurant in Syracuse after being denied service. A large group of white males followed the students into the parking lot, yelled racial epithets at them and threw punches, leaving two unconscious, as security guards stood by and watched. Afterwards, the district attorney, William J. Fitzpatrick, dismissed the affair as a drunken brawl and chose not to prosecute the men. Diverse members of the Syracuse community then banded together in protest of the lack of justice served.

Ten years later, little has changed. Asian Pacific American students and other marginalized groups continue to be affected by discrimination and ignorance. Society perceives us as the model minority – passive, easily silenced, unwilling to stand up and stand out. Here at Syracuse University, we seem to have forgotten the injustices of the past. In remembering the incident, we want to ensure that the community hears our voices. We want to show our willingness to speak out and confront discrimination.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

11 a.m. Press Conference

2 p.m. Remembrance Circle, SU Quad
We invite all students, faculty/staff, community members, and alumni to join us in remembering the social injustices of the 1997 Denny's hate crime. We will be reading people's personal narratives of hate, ignorance and prejudice to demonstrate the effects of biased-related incidents that still occur across the campus today.

5 p.m. Discussion and Reflection, Rm TBA
After a full day of speaking out, now is the time to reflect on what remembering the Denny's hate crime means to us today. We will focus on what we can do personally and what the university can do to deal with bias-related incidents.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

12 p.m. Alumni and Student Lunch, Goldstein Faculty Dining Center

5:30 p.m.
Paving the Way: Asian American Alumni in Non-Traditional Careers, HBC KITT
For this career panel, we’ve invited Asian American SU alumni to talk about how they got into their chosen professions. This will focus more on career paths that Asian Americans aren’t perceived to follow, including broadcast journalism, higher education and retail management.

9 p.m. Concert with Chan, Skybarn

Friday, April 13, 2007

5p.m. ASIA Workshop: “Fighting Against Ignorance,” HL 114
In our ordinary, everyday interactions, students repeatedly encounter instances of discrimination and prejudice on the basis of race, sexuality, gender, and disability. This workshop will focus on how we can respond to and deal with the ignorant and hurtful comments that anger us, as well as more violent bias-related incidents.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Painting

Accompanying text:
In the fall of 1997, several Asian and Asian American students waited to be seated at Denny's Restaurant in Syracuse, New York. After waiting inside for some time without any acknowledgement, the group placed their names on the waiting list. Groups of white males, who arrived subsequently, experienced no delay and were seated immediately. When the students questioned why they were not being seated, they were asked to leave the restaurant and were escorted out by two Denny's security guards.

Once outside, one of the guards pushed a Japanese student. Suddenly, a group of at least ten white males came out of the restaurant shouting racial epithets and attacked one of the students.

As the victims' friends came to their aid, they were also attacked. The Denny security guards stood by and watched, but did not step in to help. Finally, two African American students, who had also been waiting inside, broke in and pulled away the white males. By then, four of the Asian American students had been injured, two being beaten unconscious. When police finally arrived, the fight had ended and the group of white males had left the scene.

Five months later, following an investigation, the Onondaga County District Attorney's office concluded that no hate crime had been committed. The District Attorney claimed that everything, from beginning to end, appeared to have been orchestrated by the Asian American students to further their political cause.

Syracuse, NY: Denny's Incident

last April 11, a group of mostly Japanese and Asian American Syracuse University students
went to eat in the early morning hours at the Denny's restaurant on Erie Boulevard East just outside of campus.
The students charge that they were denied seating, asked to leave the restaurant,
and then were attacked by a gang of white patrons shouting anti-Asian epithets in the restaurant's parking lot.
According to the students, the incident began when their group was forced to wait for nearly a half-hour.
After watching white patrons who arrived after them be seated first, one of the students,
Li Chiu, went to complain to the hostess about the discriminatory treatment. She replied, "Don't even go there!"
A manager then asked the students to leave, and they were escorted outside by two armed security guards who were also off-duty deputy sheriffs,
pushing and shoving two of the students, Derrick Lizardo and his white friend Sean Dugan, in the process.
Outside the restaurant as they were approaching their cars to leave, the students say
a group of white men who had been eating inside the restaurant came outside yelling racial slurs and, without provocation,
attacked Yuya Hasegawa. As Lizardo and Dugan tried to come to their friend's aid, they too were attacked. Meanwhile, they charge,
the two security guards watched without intervening as the attack continued.
They also charge that one of the guards used pepper spray against Lizardo during the attack and threatened to use it against some of the others as well.
"I stood by and watched as two armed and uniformed security guards began shoving my friends for no apparent reason
But what was even worse, when we were attacked by a large group of white males, clearly outnumbered and out-muscled, the security guards did absolutely nothing to stop the attack," Yoshika Kusada tearfully told reporters at a press conference last month at the offices of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the New York-based advocacy group that is representing the students. "I begged the security guards for help--'Do something, why aren't you doing anything?'--over and over."

Kusada said she was knocked unconscious after trying to pull an attacker off of one of her friends. She said the fight only stopped when two black students,
who were in a separate party, intervened to end the fight.
Kyoko Hiraoka, one of the Japanese students, said, "I think that in this country there is no justice. I'm so disappointed that this report didn't tell the truth.
I now have to live in fear of being attacked again because they're free."
The district attorney's report contradicted the findings of a report by a federal Civil Rights Monitor who recommended that the manager who ordered the students to leave the restaurant be fired
and the hostess be suspended without pay. The monitor also recommended that the deputies, who are no longer Denny's employees, not be rehired. The monitor found that
the employees had not received necessary nondiscrimination training and recommended that Denny's develop a new video-based training program.


More links for info

Court Case:


"Federal Investigation Finds Fault at Denny's"

Victims of racial attack file suit against Syracuse restaurant


A federal Civil Rights Monitor has found that employees of a Denny's restaurant discriminated against a group of Japanese and Asian American students who were beaten in an alleged racial attack after being denied service.
Following last week's decision, lawyers for the group this week filed a civil lawsuit against Denny's and employees involved in the incident.

Two members of the group were beaten into unconsciousness during the April 11 incident at a Denny's restaurant in upstate Syracuse, N.Y.

The group of three Japanese, three Asian Americans, and their Caucasian companion--all students at nearby Syracuse University--placed their names on the waiting list after waiting for several minutes inside the restaurant without being attended to. Noticing that empty tables were available and observing that groups of white males who arrived after they did were being seated immediately while their party continued to wait, the students complained. They were then asked to leave the restaurant and escorted out by two Denny's security guards.

According to a complaint filed by the students after the incident, once outside one of the guards pushed one of the students. At that moment, a gang of about 20 white males came out of the restaurant shouting racial epithets and attacked Yuya Hasegawa, an international student from Japan.

"I couldn't eat where I wanted to," Hasegawa said in the complaint. "I was beaten by whoever wanted to beat me. I am not welcomed here."

As his friends attempted to come to his aid, they were also attacked. Despite pleas from the students to intervene, the security guards, who are also deputy sheriffs with the Onondaga Sheriff's Department, stood by and watched as the fight continued. Finally, two African American students who had also been waiting to be seated finally stepped in and pulled the whites away.

By the end of the melee two of the Asian American students were beaten into unconsciousness and two others were injured.

After an investigation, Sharon Lybeck Hartmann, a third-party Civil Rights Monitor, recommended in a decision issued last Wednesday that the manager who ordered the students to leave the restaurant after they complained about the unfair treatment be fired and the security guards, who are no longer employed by Denny's, should not be rehired. The monitor also said that the hostess who initially ignored the group should be suspended without pay and reprimanded.

Lawsuits filed after complaints of racial discrimination toward African American customers at Denny's franchises in California and Maryland resulted in legal settlements made in 1994 that require Denny's to report any allegations of racial discrimination to an independent Civil Rights Monitor selected by the Justice Department.

In addition, the settlements require that all Denny's corporate and franchise employees receive nondiscrimination training. The Civil Rights Monitor found that the employees at the Syracuse franchise had not received the necessary training and recommended that the restaurant develop a video-based nondiscrimination training program.

"The Civil Rights Monitor's decision sends a strong message. Corporations must be liable for the discriminatory conduct of their employees and take actions to correct it," said Elizabeth OuYang, an attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund who is representing the students involved in the incident.

Li Chiu, one of the students, said he was pleased with the findings of the investigation.

"I truly hope that the call for action will bring about noticeable improvements to the sensitivities of Denny's and its employees," Chiu said. "I hope someday I would feel like I could return to Denny's, but unfortunately I don't feel that way right now."

In a statement released after the Civil Rights Monitor's decision, John Romandetti, president of Denny's, said the company would follow the monitor's recommendations.

"We deeply regret and condemn the act of violence and treatment the Syracuse University students experienced," Romandetti said. "All of the monitor's recommendations will be followed to ensure a tragic incident like this will never occur again at any Denny's. Denny's has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind, under any circumstance."

Romandetti added that he had sent a letter of apology to each of the students.

NDI Foods, which operates the Erie Boulevard franchise where the incident occurred, did not return phone calls. Denny's Inc. recently signed an agreement to purchase all of its Denny's restaurants, Romandetti said.

Last Thursday the students filed a civil lawsuit against Denny's Inc., NDI Foods, Onondaga County, the two security guards, and the manager of the restaurant. The suit seeks damages and a clarification of Denny's policy of hiring off-duty sheriffs as security guards.

"We want to know what the procedure will be in regards to hiring sheriffs in the future," said OuYang. "That wasn't addressed by the Civil Rights Monitor, who only said that the particular guards involved not be rehired.

"There has to be a policy in place. The public perceives them to be peace officers and they are saying that they weren't trained to be that. We're concerned about that."

The guards have maintained that they were reluctant to intervene in the melee, which involved about 30 people, because they feared causing injury to themselves or others.

Instead, they said, they called police, who arrived on the scene after the attackers had already dispersed.

A group of African American students who also charge they were denied service at Denny's the night of the incident will also join in the suit, said their attorney, Thomas C. Hardsall. The African American students said they witnessed the incident. They later intervened to break up the fight.

A criminal complaint filed after the incident is still being investigated by the Onondaga County District Attorney's Office. A spokesperson for the district attorney said no arrests have been made yet in the case.

A spokesperson for the Onondaga Sheriff's Department said this week that the department had no comment on the suit. Last May, the department maintained that the security guards, who were off-duty at the time of the incident, had acted properly by not intervening in the fight.

"They saw a disturbance involving a large group of people and determined that if they had intervened it would have involved a considerable use of force which would have resulted in injuries--so they called for police backup instead," said Bob Burns, spokesman for the Onondaga Sheriff's Department, after the incident. "With a group of 25 to 30 people, you can't just yell and say 'stop.'"

By the time police arrived at the scene, the fight had already ended and the group of whites had left the scene, Burns said.

Yuya Hasegawa, a Japanese student who was beaten into unconsciousness during the assault said he was happy with the monitor's findings, but was concerned about the slow pace of the criminal investigation.

"This decision makes me feel better because I should be allowed to eat anywhere I want to," Hasegawa said. "But I'm still worried to go back to Syracuse because it is a small town and no one has been arrested yet for beating me."


Daily Orange Article

Denny's incident recalled during workshop
By: Lori Parasink
Issue date: 4/8/02 Section: News

Three people left with concussions. Others left with visible bruises, cuts, scars and painful images of a 1997 night — all as a result of racism.

As speaker Amnat Chittaphong recalled and described the events of that April 11, 1997 night at a Denny’s Restaurant at 2863 Erie Blvd. E., tears came to his eyes.

“To this day I find it difficult to see the pain in my friends’ faces and that nobody would believe them,” said Chittaphong, a graduate student at Syracuse University.

Asian Students in America, the group Chittaphong was previously president of, presented a workshop, “The Denny’s Incident and Other Hate Crimes,” on Friday evening in the Hall of Languages, to discuss and raise awareness of discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans. A diverse group of 25 people attended the meeting.

On that night in 1997, six Asian American students and one white student went to Denny’s sometime after 2 a.m., according to a court investigation report, and were denied access to service by Denny’s and later harassed and beaten by a group of white patrons, the report stated.

"From the very beginning this case reeked of politics," Chittaphong said.

During the workshop, Chittaphong showed various television clips from the media coverage of the case. Specifically, one clip showed Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick saying that the students were drunk and rude. He also said that the students "orchestrated" the event for their own benefit. In the clip, he added that the students did not possess enough injuries to prove what had happened to them was a hate crime.

In addition to the lack of support that the students received, they have also not received legal satisfaction. However, they do not plan on giving up.

"It's really important that we keep fighting not just this case, but all cases of discrimination," Chittaphong said.

The next step is to submit their case to the Supreme Court of the United States. The chances that their case will be heard, however, are very small.

"Right now we're at a weird moment," Chittaphong said, "It's been one appeal after another, all we want is to be tried in front of a jury."

The Denny's where the incident occurred closed last summer.

Chittaphong said that discrimination against Asian Americans exists in many other places, and has been going on for much of history. He also said that few people are familiar with Asian Americans’ struggle against racism because not much of their history is taught in American schools.

"Why is our history so insignificant in this society?" Chittaphong said.

Many students who were at the workshop, along with Chittaphong, expressed their anger with an editorial that was printed in The Daily Orange on Friday. The editorial criticized ASIA's approach of how they chose to make their voice heard. The editorial said that raising awareness is simply not enough, and that the group needed to be more proactive.

Suzie Lee, a senior inclusive elementary education major, said she was very disheartened with what The D.O. printed. She said that it was not right of The D.O. to criticize a workshop that did not even take place yet.

"How can you be proactive without education first?" Lee said.

Before Lee entered SU as a freshman, she said she experienced discrimination while dining in the Schine Center on a visit to check out the school. Lee said that she unintentionally cut another girl off while getting in line and the girl turned around and said, "Watch where you are going, chink." Lee was completely shocked.

"But despite that, I decided to come (here) because I thought this school had a lot to offer me," Lee said.

Lee ended the workshop by inviting everyone to come and support ASIA at 2:20 p.m. on Thursday on the Quad as they form a human chain in memory of the five-year anniversary of the Denny's incident.

"Everyone has a story to share,” Lee said. “We feel it's necessary to share our story.”

She also passed out flyers to the audience that listed two more workshops to be held Friday and April 19th, both in room 211 in the Hall of Languages. Topics of these workshops include "Generation Gaps: Differences Between Us and our Parents," and "Intra-racism: Racism Within the Asian Culture."

"We just want to show that we don't tolerate any form of discrimination," Lee said.