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Protests continue over hate crime allegations at bar

Former patrons', staff stories conflict; protesters accuse police of partiality

About 60 protesters held signs that said, "Hate Crimes Will Not Be Tolerated" and "Copper Lounge is Anti-queer" Thursday night outside of the bar in response to an alleged hate-crime altercation between employees and patrons in November.

Janell Jayes, an Albuquerque chef, says her glasses were broken and that she was spitting blood Nov. 2 after a staff member knocked her down with the force of the bar's front door, held his hand over her throat and kicked her outside of the building.

"I had scrapes all over my body the next day," Jayes said.

She added that on the way out of the bar she heard a staff member of the Copper Lounge tell another employee, "That bulldyke didn't want to leave."

But, staff members at the Copper Lounge tell a different story.

Mark Burrell, bartender and day manager at the Copper Lounge, said Jayes' group of friends was screaming, yelling and fighting amongst themselves in the parking lot after they left the bar. He said he never heard a staff member call any of the girls a "bulldyke" and that employees never hit or pushed the girls when trying to break up the fight - though one of the girl's glasses got knocked off.

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"I think they thought one of the staff members hit them," he said. "They actually did not."

Burrell said the situation has been blown out of proportion.

"They're also harassing innocent people that come by to buy beers," he said.

Jayes said the protests will continue until the bar buys her a new pair of glasses, gives its employees diversity training and publicly apologizes for what happened.

She said that on Nov 2. she was with about 11 friends at the Copper Lounge and ordered drinks during last call.

"As soon as they put our drinks down they turned the lights on and said, 'It's time to go,'" she said.

Jayes said that she and her friends thought it was rude that they were asked to leave soon after getting their drinks, but tried to finish as fast as they could. She said a staff member was hurrying the group out of the door and was picking up their drinks from the table before the glasses were empty.

The people in her group had had about two drinks each that night, were well-behaved and gave their server a generous tip, Jayes said

She added that as her friends left the bar, she went to use the bathroom. She said she was the last customer in the bar when she walked out and heard the employee make the derogatory comment.

Jayes said that she asked the employee why he made the remark and walked out of the bar - slamming the door in frustration.

She said the employee pushed the door back - knocking her to the ground. He then held his hands on her throat, she said, and kicked her. Jayes said she was kicking and punching in self-defense, as another staff member beat up one of her friends. She said another one of the employees said, "If they're going to dress like men then we're going to treat them like men."

Burrell said staff members take orders for last call at about 1:20 a.m. and ask people to leave at about 1:45 a.m. He said the staff asked the party of 12 to leave about three times on Nov 2.

He said one girl (Jayes) went to the bathroom and the rest of her friends went outside. He said he never heard any member of his staff call anyone a "bulldyke."

"As far as I know, I heard nothing like that," he said.

He said when the group left the bar, staff members heard fighting coming from the parking lot and called the police. He said they went outside to break up the group's fighting, and someone got her glasses knocked off, though it wasn't by a Copper Lounge staff member.

He said the women in the group then came after the staff members, so they went inside until the police came.

Jayes said that she left the scene before police showed up, though she heard from her friends that an officer said New Mexico had no hate crime laws when one of the girls tried to tell him what happened.

Thought there is no state law regarding hate crime, city ordinance 12-2-27 prohibits, "injuring a person or intentionally damaging his property because of the actual or perceived race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of that person, whether or not the offender's belief or perception was correct," according to the Albuquerque Code of Ordinances.

Jayes said that later that night she filed a police report at her house with the same officer, who did a poor job of taking down the story.

Georgia Chalamidas, owner of the Copper Lounge, said that she received a call at the bar the next day from Jayes, who said she and her friends had not been hurt physically but emotionally. She said she invited Jayes to come to the bar and talk, but Jayes never showed up. She said Jayes invited her to breakfast to talk, but she didn't go because she had to open the bar.

Jayes said she did not feel comfortable going to the Copper Lounge to speak with Chalamidas but invited her to Starbucks and she never came.

Business at the Copper Lounge has not suffered because of the protesters, Chalamidas said.

"Lesbians come here, we serve them," she said. "We keep serving everybody."

She said that her staff members know how to treat customers and would not have used derogatory language.

"My workers are responsible," she said. "They told me they didn't do that. They know better."

She emphasized that she has many gay friends and would never discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

"If we were going to mistreat them, we wouldn't have served them from the beginning," she said of the group.

Chalamidas said she will still serve any of the people that were in Jayes' group and that she would like for the people involved to visit her and talk about what happened.

Jayes said she doesn't understand why Chalamidas hasn't come to one of the protests to talk.

"Of course she wants to talk to me now, there are 80 people in front of her bar every week," she said.

Technical-Vocational Institute student Tamara Moore said police cited her and fellow protester Hershe Michele Kramer for criminal trespassing during a mid-November protest.

Moore stood on the sidewalk Thursday as flashing police cars pulled up to the bar and officers stood in the parking lot taking pictures of protesters as they smiled and took pictures back.

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