Chai Sullivan (speaking) and Daruna Nikii (background, holding paper) were victims of a racially motivated incident at Cornerstone Taphouse on Wednesday, June 3. This photo was taken at the Friday Black Lives Matter event at Simms Park, where Nikii spoke about the incident. Photo by Mike Chouinard.

Racist comments hurled at two women in Vancouver Island restaurant

Police called in, man arrested

Two young women who were in the midst of organizing a Black Lives Matter protest Friday at Simms Park in Courtenay were subject to a racial slur two nights before the event.

READ: Black Lives Matter events attract strong turnout in Comox Valley

Daruna Nikii and Chai Sullivan were dining at the Cornerstone Taphouse Wednesday, June 3 in downtown Courtenay when a man entered the premises. A message on Cornerstone’s Facebook page says the man was verbally abusive to both staff and customers.

“Someone yelled [N…..] at me,” Nikii says in a Facebook post. “Which shows that racism is still around and it’s really sad. I have no words to express how disgusted I was to hear this man call me that for no reason at all, especially with all of what’s happening in the world. People at the restaurant barely did anything until the cops showed up.”

A restaurant patron, whom the women did not know, allegedly approached the man and tried to converse with him, but the abusive man left the premises.

Cornerstone staff called the Comox Valley RCMP shortly before 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“A 37-year old man was arrested by police for mischief, causing a disturbance, and breach of probation,” Const. Monika Terragni said in a statement.

Tim Monier, a friend of the two women, came to the taphouse around the time police arrived. From what Monier understands, before the man left the building, he said to Nikii, ‘You need to be taught a lesson.’

“It was just insanity,” Monier said. “The reaction from the people in the restaurant would have been more upsetting almost than the person who actually called her the n word himself.”

Sullivan said the man became inebriated at the taphouse, and was attacking waitresses and patrons with abusive language.

“He went to the door, yelled a bunch of things, and ended by looking at Daruna and calling her the n word. Then another black man (who she didn’t know) who was there followed him outside and went to speak to him…The guy stumbled over. No one hit this guy…Daruna and I also ran after him…Daruna poured a glass of water on him, and said, ‘Don’t call me that.’

“I have to say, it was pretty calm considering the situation. No one was yelling…This guy actually wasn’t fighting back at this point, he was listening.”

Sullivan said four people at the taphouse reacted poorly.

“People were quick to defend him calling people fat, and no one said anything at all when he started using racial slurs.”

She said a woman came outside and started filming the scene on her phone. When Sullivan came back inside, she said the woman and a man said the girls and the man had assaulted the unruly patron.

“This, to me, is what really was the most upsetting about the situation, was the reaction,” Sullivan said. “They told us not to let swear words hurt our feelings.”

She said two other patrons joined in, and said the girls and the black man escalated the situation.

While Sullivan was speaking with police, she said the woman had followed them outside.

“Unprovoked, she said, ‘Stop pretending we’re in the States. You’re safe here. Don’t be afraid of the cops. And also saying, Canada does not have systemic problems’.”

Cornerstone says it is devastated by the racial attack.

Cornerstone Taphouse took to social media to address a racist incident at the establishment. 

“We wish our customer had not been racially targeted because of the colour of her skin,” the post says. “We empathize with the realities that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) and black people face this fear everyday, and we are sad our establishment became a place for this racism to express itself and cause harm to the young black woman. Know that we will never accept racism on our premises. We know that Black Lives Matter. We will continue to ensure to the best of our ability that Cornerstone is a safe space, and we will always stand with our black customers in their fight for equality. We condemn all forms of violence, and continue to strive for a world where all people are equal and safe, no matter if they are enjoying the ambience of our restaurant or simply out in public living their lives.”

In an email to The Record, the restaurant manager explained that the customer in question was in the process of being removed from the restaurant for unrelated matter, when he approached Niiki and Sullivan and verbally accosted them.

Cornerstone has permanently banned the man from its premises at 5th and Cliffe.

The Comox Valley Record reached out to both Nikii and Sullivan for additional comment, but neither had responded as of press time.



reporter@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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