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Tourists Arrested for Brawl at NYC Eatery Say Fight Was Over Racial Slur, Not Vaccination Status

Rolling Stone logo Rolling Stone 9/20/2021 Jon Blistein
a couple of people that are standing in front of a sign © AP

UPDATE (9/20): Security footage has cast doubt on the claims that three Texas tourists assaulted an employee at the restaurant Carmine’s after she requested to see proof of vaccination, The New York Times reports (the footage has not been made public, but was reviewed by The Times). The footage appears to show the three women showing their vaccine cards; later, three men arrived to join the group, but some were unable to prove he was vaccinated. It was after the three women joined the men outside that the fight broke out.

Justin Moore, a lawyer for one of the women, Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin, claimed that the hostess was condescending to the women, suggested their vaccination cards were fake, and used a racial slur. In a statement provided to Rolling Stone, Carmine’s acknowledged the three women did show proof of vaccine, but maintained that women had “launched an entirely unprovoked, brutal attack on our hosts.” The statement continued: “None of the attackers offered any reason for their attack. None of the hosts — all of whom are people of color — uttered a racial slur. None of the attackers mentioned anything about race to our managers, staff, or the police who arrested them, and a Texas criminal defense lawyer’s false assertion otherwise is a deeply cynical ploy to try to excuse wanton violence.”

In a statement issued on Instagram Monday, September 20th, Moore noted that the security footage reportedly does not have audio, but claimed, if it did, he would “expect [it to] further display the racist epithets and derogatory language” that was alleged. “It is unfortunate that Carmine’s and their hostess were able to lie to the police to avoid being held accountable for this hostess’ racism,” Moore said. “She physically and verbally provoked confrontation and then played the victim to criminalize these three black women. This is an unfortunate trend in this country where people who are afforded privilege and access to the police wield it as a weapon against black people. Now, unfortunately, these same people seek to use a vaccine policy — that is needed to quell the pandemic — to further their own agendas and calcify their privilege vis-a-vis to that of their fellow black citizens.”

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A hostess at a restaurant in Manhattan was assaulted by three tourists from Texas after asking that they show proof of vaccine.

The incident took place on Thursday, September 16th, at the Italian restaurant Carmine’s. Earlier this week, New York City’s mandate requiring people to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19 for indoor activities — like eating at restaurants and attending concerts — officially went into effect.

Per a statement provided by the NYPD, the victim, a 24-year-old woman, said she “got into a dispute with three unknown females after she requested to see their Covid-19 vaccine card. The individuals struck her multiple times with closed fists. During the altercation the complainant’s necklace broke.” The hostess “suffered bruises and scratches to her face, chest, and arm.”

The three women were later identified as 44-year-old Kaeita Nkeenge Rankin, 21-year-old Tyonnie Keshay Rankin, and 49-year-old Sally Rechelle Lewis. The Rankins are both from Humble, Texas, while Lewis is from Houston.

All three women were charged with assault and criminal mischief. As The New York Times reports, they were given desk appearances and ordered to return to court.

“It’s a shocking and tragic situation when one of our valued employees is assaulted for doing their job — as required by city policies — and trying to make a living,” a spokesperson for Carmine’s said. “Our focus right now is caring for our employees and the rest of our restaurant family. We are a family-style restaurant, and this is the absolute last experience any of our employees should ever endure and any customers witness.”

New York City announced its vaccine mandate for indoor activities back in August, becoming the first city in the United States to adopt such measures. Since going into effect this week, the city has been conducting inspections of indoor establishments and issuing warnings, but enforcement has largely been placed on the shoulders of employees at these establishments.

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