(TMU) – Tim Lemuel, the owner of an LGBTQ bar in Raleigh, North Carolina, says that police shot tear gas and flash-bang grenades at his business on Monday night, as he was providing water and medical attention to protesters in his parking lot.
Lemuel said he and his friends spent several hours in the parking lot of his business, handing out granola bars and water bottles to protesters, and helping people wash tear gas and pepper spray out of their eyes, before they were approached by a large group of officers just after midnight.
In a video that was later posted on social media of the incident, police officers can be heard yelling “Move!” as they are stomping down the street towards his business.
RALEIGH POLICE JUST FIRED FLASH BANGS AND LESS LETHAL ROUNDS AT MEDICS, INCLUDING THE OWNER OF RUBY’S DELUXE, A QUEER BAR WHERE THE MEDICS WERE STATIONED. pic.twitter.com/sGckVjRC1e
— film pigs not ppl ☭ (@bennykoval) June 1, 2020
Lemuel attempted to explain to the police that it was his property, but they weren’t interested in having a conversation.
“I don’t care where you go, you gotta go,” one of the officers can be heard saying, while reloading what appears to be a shotgun.
Next, a flash-bang grenade was fired, as the officers yelled “Move!” again. Another officer can be heard shouting “Game is over!”
Just before the video cuts off, Lemuel can be heard pleading with the police, saying “this is my business!”
Eric Curry, a spokesperson for the Wake County sheriff’s office admitted that officers specifically targeted the bar because they received an anonymous tip that protesters were being given water and medical attention there, in a statement to News Observer.
“We will say only that the strategy to use ‘less-lethal force’ was appropriate, for the safety of subjects. Once deputies urge the crowd to disperse several times and there is non-compliance, the next step is to disperse the crowd,” Curry wrote.
Curry called the strategy a success because it caused the crowd to disperse.
Luckily, no one was hurt, but Lemuel says that many of his employees and volunteers were traumatized.
“I was in the Army for eight years, so the bangs didn’t bother me, but my staff were scared out of their minds. If you’ve never been in that situation it appears like you’re going to be killed,” Lemuel said.
Lemuel said that the police had been watching what they were doing all day, and had plenty of opportunities to come over and peacefully shut things down if they had any problems.
“During the seven hours, they had, you know, every opportunity to come down and check on us, see what was going on or tell us their concerns. They just chose not to. And at some point they just went straight for guns blazing,” Lemuel said.
Local politicians have promised to investigate the force used by police in the incident.
A similar incident occurred earlier this week in Louisville, Kentucky, where police officers and National Guard members fired live ammunition on a crowd that had gathered in a parking lot for a weekly barbeque. A local business owner who was serving food at the event was shot and killed because his patrons had gathered after curfew.