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Downtown L.A. bar hiring new security after forced removal of transgender women

Video by Khloe Rios

A popular downtown Los Angeles bar is hiring new security after a video showing transgender women being forcefully removed by the bar’s security guards went viral on social media.

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Members of the group said that they, along with several other friends, were forced to leave Las Perlas Friday night after a straight couple yelled slurs and attacked them.

Pouring With Heart, the company that owns Las Perlas, said in an email that it plans to hire a security company that has received sensitivity training. The company said that it also has retained outside counsel to “review the tapes and actions from Friday night to make more specific analysis of exactly what happened and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Cedd Moses, the founder of Pouring With Heart, previously had said that the security guards had acted appropriately.

“Last evening, an escalated verbal altercation broke out among two groups of guests at Las Perlas. Our manager on duty asked both groups to leave, as the safety and security of our patrons and employees is our top priority and we have zero tolerance for this type of behavior in our establishments,” Moses said in a prepared statement. “The guards removed the guests that were not compliant with the manager’s request to leave and did so in accordance with company policy.”

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Cellphone video of the incident does not show the alleged attack, but the footage captures three people being forcefully removed from the bar. Police are investigating the incident as a potential hate crime.

In the video, a security guard grabs one of the women, Jennifer Bianchi, who repeatedly tells the man, “Don’t touch me like that.” She pushes back, arguing that she needs to get her shoe. The guard then shoves her again, wraps his arms around her and moves Bianchi toward the door. Moments later, another bar employee grabs a transgender woman who was seated sitting down, wraps his arm around her chest and says, “We’re done.”

The woman looks at the camera and says, “What happened?” before being dragged out of the bar.

Police said the group had filed a hate crime report and that the department was investigating the incident.

“Please know that the Department is committed to ensuring the safety of every Angeleno, as well as the right of all to live their true lives in peace, harmony, and free from anxiety or fear,” LAPD Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala tweeted.

The group of coworkers said they were celebrating the LGBTQ community at the DTLA Proud Festival and decided to stop by the bar to eat after the event. Khloe Rios, who filmed the cellphone video, said the group was chatting and eating tacos and quesadillas when the straight couple approached them.

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“They said, ‘You guys are all men. You guys don’t belong here,’ ” Rios, 30, recalled. “And we turned around and said, ‘Please leave us alone. We don’t want problems.’ ”

The man accompanying the woman grew aggressive, Rios said, and slapped her coworker and pushed her. The group stood up and huddled around one another for protection, she said.

At that point, Rios said, the bar’s security guards got involved. They asked the man to get his wife and exit the restaurant. She said the employees were gentler with the couple, who were escorted out, than with the group.

“I think it was excessive force used for no reason,” Bianchi said. “I was a paying customer like everybody else in there, and the couple didn’t get escorted out the way we did. We’re all still pretty shocked.”

Bianchi said the group called the police but that the couple left before officers arrived. Before leaving, she said, the man grabbed a piece of metal from the street and threatened them again.

“He threw it at the door and said they would shoot us all and kill us because we were guys,” Bianchi said. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I feel sad. I feel anger. I feel just like I’m in a nightmare.”

In his statement, Moses said this “was a rare and unfortunate incident, as Las Perlas has provided an inclusive and welcoming environment since it opened almost 10 years ago.”

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“We will continue to value and celebrate the diversity of the downtown Los Angeles community we are so proud to be a part of,” Moses said. Las Perlas plans to open a location in West Hollywood, according to Eater.

Bianchi said she hoped the incident would engender compassion toward the LGBTQ community.

“This cannot happen over and over,” she said. “We are facing so much discrimination and hate.”


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