After falsely accusing Black Lives Matter protesters of a crime, a former New York ice cream shop owner has been ordered to pay each of the protesters $500, amounting to $4,500. Protesters initially zeroed in on David Elmendorf, formerly of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze in Schenectady, for hiring practices reported to be racist last year as well as “multiple racist and discriminatory actions he took in violation of the law,” officials with New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office said in a news release initially reported by the Associated Press.
“In altercations with peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, Elmendorf brandished several weapons and made death threats in an effort to stop protests, while simultaneously using a number of offensive, racial epithets when referring to Black protesters,” officials said in the release. “Following the altercations, Elmendorf called the police and falsely claimed protesters were brandishing weapons as he used their race and color as the reason for the call.” Elmendorf is also “permanently enjoined from making future threats to intimidate, coerce, harass, or use physical violence against any persons or group of people because of their race, from having or brandishing a deadly weapon within 1,000 feet of any peaceful protest, from communicating with any of the victims from the incident, and from creating false reports with the police based on a person’s skin color.”
Judge Michael Cuevas signed the order citing nine violations of civil rights law last Tuesday. The lawsuit is both the first of its kind brought to James’ Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit and the first that utilizes a law granting James the power to prosecute those who make false race-based reports to police. “There is zero tolerance for harassment, intimidation, or violence of any kind against anyone in New York,” James said in the news release. “As this nation continues to be plagued by division and hate, this decision sends a critical and clear message that those who perpetuate racism and discrimination, including filing false, race-based police reports, will be held to the fullest extent of the law.
“This is an important step forward, but our work isn’t over — we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that every New Yorker feels safe and protected.”
Officials with her office said in the release that Elmendorf “terrorized peaceful protesters by making several armed, racist death threats with both a .22 caliber air rifle and a baton” after they demonstrated near the ice cream shop for two days. Elmendorf was charged with choosing his victims based on race and violating their right to peacefully protest when he “threatened to use physical force and harassed protesters with racial slurs.”
Elmendorf was also charged under an added provision of the law for falsely reporting a crime using race as a motivating factor, essentially weaponizing police against people of color. That provision was added after Amy Cooper (a white woman) earned the title “Central Park Karen” when she called 911 on a Black birdwatcher who asked that she put her dog on a leash in keeping with Central Park rules. Christian Cooper, the birdwatcher—a Harvard graduate and science editor on the board of the New York City Audubon Society—recorded Amy Cooper’s response on May 25, 2020 and posted the now-viral video on Facebook. In the video, Amy can be seen calling the police while saying: “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.” When she reached a dispatcher, she said repeatedly: “He’s African American.”
Rev. Nicolle Harris, president of the NAACP Schenectady Branch, called Elmendorf’s prosecution under the new legal provision “a victory for the entire community of Schenectady … It demonstrates that acts of racism will not be tolerated,” Harris said. “It is the vision of the NAACP to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights and there is no racial hatred or racial discrimination. We applaud Attorney General Letitia James because this win against David Elmendorf, the former owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze, moves us toward that vision becoming a reality.”
Jamaica Miles and Shawn Young, activists with the Black-led community action group All Of Us, echoed Harris’ sentiment in a statement they provided to James’ office. They stated:
“In June of 2020, All Of Us stood against and called out the racist acts of David Elmendorf, the owner of Bumpy’s Polar Freeze. We were able to successfully shut down the business but not before David himself attacked Black protesters and allies. We were proud to learn that Attorney General Letitia James’ Office later filed a lawsuit for race-based actions against the peaceful protestors who were calling for justice. The outcome of the case brings us a step closer in our journey to addressing racism in our region and in our state. This is a victory for All Of Us and the community. This is a victory for all who stand against racism. This is a victory for the many businesses that actively support their entire community. Racism thrives in silence and in the dark. We are sincerely thankful for all those in the community who took action to raise awareness around the racist acts of Mr. Elmendorf and the business practices of Bumpy’s, especially those who were willing to relive their traumatic experience testifying about what happened. This process was a collective one. This is what community looks like.”
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