Top Paris restaurant probed over ‘anti-Arab discrimination’

French authorities launched an investigation into accusations that L’Avenue restaurant in Paris systematically sought to decline reservations from Arab, African or veil-wearing customers. (File photo: Reuters)
Updated 19 May 2018
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Top Paris restaurant probed over ‘anti-Arab discrimination’

PARIS: French authorities launched an investigation Friday into accusations that a top Parisian restaurant, favored by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Rihanna, systematically sought to decline reservations from Arab, African or veil-wearing customers.
The Buzzfeed website reported on Thursday that L’Avenue, an ultra-chic brasserie near the famed Champs-Elysees boulevard, had “put in place a veritable system of discrimination,” notably turning down reservations from diners with Arabic-sounding names.
Middle-Eastern tourists from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain were also told that the restaurant was fully booked, Buzzfeed said in its investigation, based on testimony from four former waitresses.
“If a veiled woman showed up to the restaurant, they had to be told that the restaurant was full, even if it was not,” the report said, adding that the former waitresses charged that the system was still in place.
Buzzfeed printed screenshots of text messages between staff that appeared to support the allegations, as well as a list of telephone country codes kept at the front desk, allegedly to help staff decline reservation requests from citizens of the four Gulf countries.
French rights chief Jacques Toubon, announcing an investigation, said in a statement that the restaurant was also accused of “discrimination in terms of physical appearance.”
The former serving staff told Buzzfeed they were ordered to sit the “good-looking and presentable” customers on the ground floor and terrace where they would be the most visible.
The restaurant was unreachable for comment on Friday afternoon.
But its manager Alexandre Denis denied the allegations in comments to Buzzfeed, telling the website: “All cultures, all nationalities come here... What is certain is that I never gave instructions to refuse customers.”
L’Avenue announced in 2015 that it was set to open a New York branch in mid-2018 in partnership with department store Saks Fifth Avenue.


US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

In this Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, photo provided by the ACLU of Montana, Martha Hernandez, left, and Ana Suda pose in front of a convenience store in Havre, Mont., where they say they were detained by a U.S Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish last year. (AP)
Updated 52 min 24 sec ago
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US women detained for speaking Spanish sue border agency

  • The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre

LOS ANGELES: Two US women detained by a border patrol agent in the state of Montana after he heard them speaking Spanish in a grocery store have sued the country’s border protection agency.
Video of the incident — which took place last May in the small town of Havre — showed Agent Paul O’Neal tell Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez that he had asked to see their identification as it was unusual to hear Spanish speakers in the state, which borders Canada.
“It has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store in a state where it’s predominately English speaking,” he said.
“It’s not illegal, it’s just very unheard of up here,” he told the women.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed suit against US Customs and Border Protection on behalf of the women, who live in Havre.
Suda and Hernandez say in the lawsuit that O’Neal detained them for 40 minutes.
California native Hernandez and Suda, who was born in Texas, said they were standing in line to buy milk and eggs when the agent — who was standing behind them — commented on Hernandez’s accent, and asked the women where they were born.
“I asked, ‘Are you serious’?” Suda said, according to the lawsuit. “Agent O’Neal responded that he was ‘dead serious’.”
The two women say they were then asked to show identification and questioned outside the store, before eventually being released.
“The incident itself is part of a broader pattern that we’ve seen of abusive tactics by border patrol which has gotten worse since the Trump administration, which has left border patrol officers feeling emboldened to take actions like this,” Cody Wofsy, an attorney with the ACLU, told AFP.
“This has been devastating for (Suda and Hernandez),” he added.
“Havre is a small town, they felt ostracized and humiliated and made to feel unwelcome in their own town and in their own country.”
He noted the United States has no official language, with Spanish by far the most common language spoken after English.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesman declined to comment on the case.
“As a matter of policy, US Customs and Border Protection does not comment on pending litigation,” he told AFP in a statement. “However, lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations.”