Police are investigating after a woman at a Denny’s in Alberta was caught on video shouting at other patrons to “go back to your own” country and threatening to “leap across the table” and punch them.
The woman, who has since lost her job at a B.C. car dealership after being identified, has apologized. But she says the video doesn’t reflect the whole story and that she was “merely standing up for myself as I was being disrespected that night.”
Monir Omerzai, who has lived in Lethbridge for more than 12 years since moving from Afghanistan, said the incident happened in April. He posted the video to Facebook on Tuesday evening after he says friends encouraged him to do so.
“All the immigrants that they come here and they work hard, they basically start from scratch, and nobody should be disrespected like that for no reason,” Omerzai told CTV Lethbridge on Wednesday.
“I’ve lived all over Canada, and I haven’t seen anybody like that.”
On April 21, Kelly Pocha from Cranbrook, B.C., and her husband visited the Denny’s in Lethbridge. In an adjacent booth, Omerzai and three friends settled down to grab a bite to eat.
Omerzai said Pocha became upset after accusing one of his friends of “glaring” at her table.
In the video, which has been viewed more than 350,000 times, Pocha accuses the men of not paying taxes, demands that they speak English and tells them to “go back to where you came from.”
Every culture and every human being should be respected it does not matter what color you are where you came from please share this video thank you
Posted by Monir Omerzai on Tuesday, May 8, 2018
A man at Omerzai’s table responds by saying that they are, in fact, Canadian.
“You’re a human being, I’m a human being –” the man says, before being cut off.
“No, you are not Canadian,” Pocha says.
At one point, Pocha’s husband attempts to hold her back as she leans toward Omerzai’s table and shouts, “You want to see a Canadian woman come and brute on your f—ing ass? It’s my f—ing home. I was born and raised here. You f—ing weren’t.”
Pocha later shouts, “You’re not dealing with one of your Syrian b—-es right now. You’re dealing with a Canadian woman. And I’m not going to be talked down to by you.”
Omerzai said police were called to the restaurant, but he says the officers said they couldn’t do anything. Omerzai said he and his friends were then asked to leave by police.
“The food just arrived, it was fresh and then we looked at the restaurant owner and then they told us we have to pack our food and leave now,” he said.
Omerzai said the waitress then apologized to Pocha.
“Before the lady was moved, the waitress at Denny’s, she was apologizing to her — but not us. Like, we were the ones there, we were not intoxicated, we were not anything.”
Omerzai said he’s never experienced such overt racism, and that he struggled over whether or not to post the video because he didn’t want to relive the ordeal.
“(We) live in a country that’s multicultural and everybody looks at everybody the same way … I was shocked, that’s why I was laughing at what she was saying to me. I couldn’t believe it, because Canada is a beautiful country,” he said.
“It just makes me upset to see people come in there and start taking out things on you. It just makes you mad. I work hard and I pay taxes, too.”
CTV Lethbridge went to the Denny’s location where the incident unfolded. A manager told CTV Lethbridge to contact Denny’s Canada head office. Denny’s Canada has not responded to the request for comment.
Lethbridge Police said Wednesday that they are aware of the video, and that police are “looking into the matter at this time.”
Police have confirmed that both groups were asked to leave the restaurant.
An investigation is being carried out, and police said they will provide an update “as more facts become known.”
‘I am human, and I make mistakes’
Pocha told Lethbridge News Now that she was drinking that night with her husband and became upset after the men sitting behind them at Denny’s “started talking in their own language” and laughing.
Pocha told Lethbridge News Now that she thought they were “making fun of her.”
In a statement released later on Wednesday, Pocha claimed that the men made “racial comments and obscenities” toward her that did not appear in the video.
Pocha said her actions were “inexcusable and unfortunately can not be taken back.” However, she said it is “unfortunate” that the video doesn’t show what she calls “a side that you are not seeing … my side.”
“Yes, my lash back was inappropriate and racial, but I was merely standing up for myself as I was being disrespected that night,” Pocha said in the statement.
“It is also disheartening to see that people are so quick to judge and make racial/degrading comments about myself and my family without knowing the whole truth.”
I would like to formally apologize to these men, as I did to the staff and management at Denny’s in Lethbridge two weeks ago for my actions. I am human, and I make mistakes.”
My actions that night do not reflect who I am as a person, I am a hardworking mother of three and meant no harm by my actions. This has affected my employer as well, to the owner, management, and staff I am truly sorry.”
I will be seeking professional help to work on me, to see this doesn’t happen again.”
Cranbrook Dodge confirmed that they terminated the employee after they learned of the “disturbing video.”
“We strive to be a welcoming and inclusive company with no room for hate or intolerance,” the B.C. car dealership said in a Facebook statement.
Lethbridge mayor ‘embarrassed’
Alberta’s premier responded to video, saying “racist, bigoted comments have no place in Alberta.”
“Our government is always working to foster acceptance and better understanding of our differences. By working together, we can make life better for all. Everyone is welcome in Alberta,” Notley said in a tweet Wednesday.
Racist, bigoted comments have no place in Alberta.
Our government is always working to foster acceptance and better understanding of our differences.
By working together, we can make life better for all.
Everyone is welcome in Alberta.#ableg #abpoli https://t.co/ogyXFnZ7fM
— Rachel Notley (@RachelNotley) May 9, 2018
Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman also condemned the incident and underscored the importance of multiculturalism in his community.
“I am embarrassed to learn that this incident happened in Lethbridge. We are working hard to address racism and bigotry but can not prevent ignorance and the hostile behaviour of individuals. Most Lethbridge citizens are proud of our reputation as a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees,” Spearman wrote in a Facebook post.
Alberta MLA David Shephard said the incident is a sign of a larger problem, and called for Denny’s to investigate.
“Her diatribe reflects the toxic culture of islamophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric fed by far too many,” Shephard said in a tweet.
There is a post on Facebook featuring a racist incident which occurred in our city.I am embarrassed to learn that this…
I'm incredibly sorry to see such hateful vitriol from a fellow Canadian. Her diatribe reflects the toxic culture of islamophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric fed by far too many.
— David Shepherd (@DShepYEG) May 9, 2018