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.