Police investigating forceful removal of trans women from L.A. bar

A video circulating online shows security at Los Angeles bar Las Perlas forcefully removing several LGBTQ people from the establishment.
By Gwen Aviles

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed Monday that it is investigating as a hate crime an incident in which security guards were seen forcibly removing a group of transgender women and gay men from a Los Angeles bar.

More than 100 protesters gathered outside Las Perlas on Saturday after a video circulated online showing the incident the night before.

In the video, which has since been viewed more than 300,000 times, the guard can be seen pushing a man toward the exit, while another bouncer grabs a trans woman by the arms.

“Don’t touch me like that,” the woman, who was later identified as Jennifer Bianchi, said as she was dragged toward the doorway. “I need my shoe. I need my shoe.”

The video then shows the first security guard wrapping his arms around another transgender woman’s neck and pulling her outside.

Ironically, the group of trans women and gay men who were pushed out of Las Perlas on Friday night had just spoken at an event about the epidemic of violence against trans women of color, according to Nicholas Turton, who posted the video of the incident. Turton said the group headed to Las Perlas to celebrate after their remarks at the opening ceremony for DTLA Proud, a local LGBTQ advocacy organization.

Shortly after arriving at the bar, however, they were allegedly approached by a heterosexual couple who verbally attacked them.

“The heterosexual couple began to call the group transphobic slurs, misgendering them by calling them ‘men’ and eventually shouting and threatening to ‘come back and kill you!’” Turton wrote on Twitter. “The group of trans women remained calm and collected and tried to de-escalate the situation.”

The couple accused of starting the altercation, however, left the bar before police arrived, according to police.

This initial altercation was not captured on video, but the victims of the alleged verbal attack told NBC Los Angeles that they were all asked to leave following the threats of violence. The heterosexual duo, who have not yet been identified, were reportedly able to walk out of the bar without issue, while the transgender women and gay men were forcefully removed.

“It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel like I’m less than them, when I’m not,” Bianchi told NBC Los Angeles. “It makes me feel angry because my community, the transgender community, has suffered a lot as it is.”

At the protest Saturday, participants chanted “Trans Lives Matter” and called for the bar to be closed permanently.

Cedd Moses of the Pouring With Heart hospitality company that owns Las Perlas issued a statement Saturday, calling the incident “rare and unfortunate.”

“Las Perlas has provided an inclusive and welcoming environment since it opened almost 10 years ago,” the statement read. “We will continue to value and celebrate the diversity of the downtown Los Angeles community.”

Moses added that profits made during this past weekend would be donated to Bienestar Human Services, an L.A.-based social services organization that focuses on addressing health conditions in Latino and LGBTQ populations.

The donations, however, were not a meaningful enough measure for some protesters, who continued to flood the establishment’s Facebook and Yelp pages with negative reviews, and for the victims of the incident.

"This is a place where I should feel safe, and I'm not, and it just creates more vulnerability for our community,” Khloe Rios, a trans woman present at the incident, told NBC Los Angeles.

Las Perlas issued a second statement Sunday night, this time detailing the measures it will take to ensure the safety of its LGBTQ patrons, including hiring a new security company that will undergo sensitivity training and further investigating the incident.

“We just want this to be brought to light,” Bianchi told NBC Los Angeles. “That it’s 2019, and there’s still all these hate crimes.”

The LAPD reported an almost 40 percent increase in hate incidents related to victims' sexual orientation between 2017 and 2018, according to a report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. In a separate report, the center recorded 17 anti-transgender hate crimes and 56 anti-gay attacks in 2018.

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