B.C. woman fired from car dealership after racist tirade caught on camera at Lethbridge restaurant
Video of a woman uttering racist comments and threatening violence against a group of men at a Lethbridge restaurant is being shared widely on social media and has cost the woman her job.
The five-minute video begins with a woman telling a group of men sitting at a table next to hers that they’re “dealing with a Canadian woman right now and I will leap across this table and punch you right in your f***king mouth.”
As the video continues, the woman can be heard saying, “Go back to your f***king country,” and “You’re not Canadian,” after one of the men is heard saying, “We’re all Canadian.”
Towards the end of the video, the woman tells the group, “Speak English if you’re going to speak. It’s Canada.”
WATCH: Cranbrook woman’s racist tirade at Lethbridge Denny’s goes viral
The video was posted to Monir Omerzai’s Facebook page on Tuesday night as well as on other Facebook pages. He said the incident happened in mid-April.
Omerzai was one of the targets of the verbal attack. He said the exchange started after he noticed the woman glaring at one of his friends and asked her, “Is everything OK?”
“She started going off. She just started calling us names, that we’re from Syria, we’re from this country, we’re from that country,” Omerzai said.
“As a human being, we should never be treated like that and I was never expecting that sort of experience from a grownup lady.”
The woman in the video has been identified as Kelly Pocha of Cranbrook, B.C.
Global News has reached out to Pocha, who told Lethbridge News Now that while she’s sorry for what she said, she was “totally provoked.”
“It’s gotten way out of hand. People aren’t seeing the whole story,” she said.
According to Pocha, who said she had a few drinks before the tirade unfolded, she and her husband went to the restaurant to eat.
“It started with a look,” she said. “I turned around and I looked at the one gentleman and he was staring at me and I said, ‘Is there a problem?’ And he said, ‘No, no problem.'”
Pocha said she turned around again and he was still looking at her. She said she then turned around a third time and the men were speaking in a language she couldn’t understand and she believed they were laughing at her.
“They did say a few things to me in English that weren’t very nice and then I got extremely heated and then that’s basically when they hit record.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Pocha’s employer — Cranbrook Dodge — posted on its Facebook page the “employee in question has been terminated.”
“We have recently become aware of a disturbing video that involves one of our employees,” dealership owner Dave Girling said in the post. “We are deeply concerned about the content of this video and want all of our friends, families, colleagues, and customers to know that this behaviour does not reflect the values of Cranbrook Dodge in any way.
“We strive to be a welcoming and inclusive company with no room for hate or intolerance.”
When contacted by Global News, Girling declined to comment further except to say “it’s just the right thing to do.”
Pocha said she realizes the video may damage her reputation.
“I don’t know how to handle this kind of attention,” she said. “I don’t really know what to do.”
Watch below: ‘People aren’t seeing the whole story’: Woman making racist comments in Lethbridge video speaks out
Late Wednesday afternoon, Global News discovered a second video of the incident that was posted to Facebook. The second video was shot from another vantage point: behind the woman hurling racial insults.
The video begins with one of the men sitting at the table next to the woman telling her to “shut the f*** up.”
The woman then stands up and yells at him while the man she’s yelling at tells her to “sit down.”
“I respected you first… f*** you,” he is heard saying as a man sitting next to the woman tries to restrain her.
There is more yelling between the two and a woman’s voice, which sounds like it is close to the camera, is heard saying, “B***, he belongs in Canada just as much as you. Shut the f*** up.”
Watch below: A video posted to Facebook shows patrons at a Lethbridge restaurant responding to a customer yelling racist comments at two men.
Omerzai said he moved to Canada 13 years ago after growing up in Afghanistan and Tajikistan and has never experienced racism to that level.
“I have sat with people, I have dealt with people myself in life, but I have never seen such a thing like that for 13 years, and someone shows you so much hate and so much anger.
“It was just something shocking for me.”
Mujtab Abdul Gahafar was one of the other men at the table that night. He echos Omerzai’s comments that the verbal attack was shocking, particularly because he hasn’t experienced anything like that previously.
“I know what real Canadians are like, so we don’t take this as a representation of Canada,” Gahafar said.
“She is what she is to herself, and I hope at some point in life she realizes that whatever she has inside of her is all hate and she needs to maybe get rid of some.”
WATCH: Hate speech or freedom of speech? University of Calgary professor clarifies why it’s hard to prove.
Pocha, who describes herself as a hardworking mother of three, said she doesn’t “normally say things like that” and that she was having an “off day.”
“If I could rewind and take it back I would, but I can’t,” she said, adding she later apologized to the restaurant’s server and manager and told them she would like to apologize to the men she said racist things to.
Gahafar and Omerzai said the incident happened at the lone Denny’s restaurant in Lethbridge.
Gahafar said he spoke to police the night of the incident and was told “there is no Criminal Code against racists.”
“It looked like the police didn’t seem to put a lot of interest in seeing the video and doing further investigation, so basically he wanted the scenario to be over with,” Gahafar said.
He said he hasn’t spoken to police since that night.
WATCH: Kent Morrison reports on a racist tirade inside a Lethbridge Denny’s that’s sending shockwaves across the Internet and has caught the attention of public officials.
The video post has prompted dozens of responses from users on Facebook.
On Wednesday morning, the Lethbridge Police Service tweeted it was aware of video “being circulated on social media involving a verbal dispute that was recorded at a local restaurant.” Police said they are looking into the matter.
Late Wednesday afternoon, police issued a news release in which they confirmed they are investigating “an incident that occurred last month at a local restaurant and was posted on social media.”
Police said officers were dispatched to a Denny’s restaurant in the 400-block of Mayor Magrath Drive after someone reported a disturbance involving patrons.
“Upon arrival police were informed that restaurant staff had already separated the two groups following a verbal dispute where the parties had been yelling at each other and one individual used racial slurs,” police said. “After consultation with police, restaurant staff made the decision to exercise their right to refuse service to both groups and asked that they leave. Both groups eventually complied and left the restaurant without further incident.
“Any information being circulated on social media suggesting that police advised only one group to leave and escorted them out of the restaurant is false.”
Omerzai said when police got there, the woman had been moved to a different table and was being treated quite differently by the restaurant’s server than they were.
“The waitress was helping her, and apologizing to her, but she would not even come close to us and tell us what’s going on,” he said. “[Denny’s management] were telling us to leave and at the same time the food was ready, it was right there, and the management at the Denny’s, they basically told us to pack our food and get out.”
Gahafar said Pocha and the man with her were also asked to leave.
Pocha said the restaurant called police but that the men had left when officers arrived. She said police asked her and her husband to leave and they did.
“I think police should have digged into this further before making this decision of kicking us out and not eating,” Omerzai said.
Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman posted on Facebook that he’s embarrassed over the incident.
“We are working hard to address racism and bigotry but can not prevent ignorance and the hostile behaviour of individuals,” Spearman wrote.
“Most Lethbridge citizens are proud of our reputation as a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees.”
Global News reached out to Denny’s Corp. for comment on the incident and received a statement Wednesday night that a spokesperson said could be attributed to the franchisee, Dencan Restaurants, Inc. You can read the statement in its entirety below:
“We are extremely disturbed by the events that took place at our restaurant in Lethbridge, Alberta. Our managers are trained to intervene with disruptive guests in these types of situations. Based on our initial internal investigation, it appears our manager followed proper protocol but was unable to de-escalate the situation, and thus contacted local law enforcement.
“At Denny’s, we have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and do not in any way condone or accept this type of behavior (SIC) and language. We are dedicated to providing a welcoming dining environment for all our guests. We do apologize and regret that our guests had to endure this customer’s terrible behavior (SIC) and continue to work with local officials on their investigation of this incident.”
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