Racist tirade caught on video at Lethbridge Denny's restaurant goes viral
An unidentified woman engages in an argument at a restaurant in Lethbridge, Alta., in this screengrab from an undated video posted on Facebook by Monir Omerzai. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Facebook, Monir Omerzai
The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, May 9, 2018 5:03PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 9, 2018 6:45PM EDT
LETHBRIDGE, Alta. - Monir Omerzai was still stewing weeks after a fellow diner at a Denny's spewed a racist tirade at him and his friends.
So on Tuesday, he decided to post on Facebook a video that he had filmed of the heated exchange at the restaurant in Lethbridge, Alta.
The video shows a woman turning toward a group in the next booth and unleashing a profanity-laden rant, telling them to go back to where they came from and saying they don't pay taxes.
“Go back to your f---ing country,” she is heard saying. “We don't need you here.”
The people at the table try to interject.
“We're all the same,” says a man's voice off camera. “You're a human being. I'm a human being. There's nothing special about you.”
As the exchange escalates, the woman gets up to kneel on her seat overlooking the group's booth.
“You're not dealing with one of your Syrian bitches right now,” she says. “You're dealing with a Canadian woman and I'm not going to be talked down to by you.”
At one point, she appears to lunge at the table as a man beside her holds her back.
By Wednesday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 350,000 times and been shared 7,300 times.
Omerzai said he's never experienced anything like it since arriving in Canada from Afghanistan 13 years ago and thought others should know what happened.
“It's sad to see people like this and it makes me upset deep inside,” he said Wednesday.
“The hate that we get from people for no reason, just to have a dinner there. It shouldn't turn out to be like that.”
Omerzai said he was out with three friends and they were laughing at a joke and chatting in Dari, their native language. A woman at the next booth turned around. They asked her if everything was OK. That's when things got heated.
Police were called, but Omerzai said officers told him there was nothing they could do. He said the restaurant asked them to leave just as their food arrived.
When Omerzai and his friends left, the woman and her companion were still there, he said
He has not heard from police or the restaurant since, he added.
Lethbridge police said they continue to investigate a report of two groups having a verbal dispute, including one person using “racial slurs.”
Police said restaurant staff refused to serve both groups and asked them to leave.
“Both groups eventually complied and left the restaurant without further incident,” police said in a release.
“There had been no further outreach or reports to police by any of the involved parties or witnesses prior to ... when the video garnered attention on social media.”
Dencan Restaurants said the manager followed proper protocol, but was unable to de-escalate the situation and called police.
“At Denny's, we have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind and do not in any way condone or accept this type of behaviour and language.” the company said in a statement.
“We do apologize and regret that our guests had to endure this customer's terrible behaviour and continue to work with local officials on their investigation of this incident.”
Kelly Pocha of Cranbrook, B.C., confirmed to Lethbridge News Now that she was the woman in the video.
She told the news outlet she had been drinking during a visit three weeks ago and went to Denny's with her husband for a late-night bite.
Pocha said the men were looking at her and laughing, while saying things in a language she didn't understand.
“I got extremely heated and that's basically when they hit record,” Pocha said. “It's gotten way out of hand. People aren't seeing the whole story.”
Pocha, who described herself as a hard-working mother of three, admitted that what she said was racist and said it doesn't reflect who she is.
“If I could rewind and take it back I would. But I can't.”
The video cost Pocha her job as controller at Cranbrook Dodge.
“We have recently become aware of a disturbing video that involves one of our employees,” dealership owner Dave Girling said in a statement.
“The employee in question has been terminated and we deeply apologize for her actions.”
Stephanie McLean, Alberta's minister for the status of women, was criticized for offering a qualified defence of the woman on social media.
“She was definitely not right and was saying horrible bigoted things. That being said - (am) I hearing right? At the beginning of the video does the man on the left say to her, 'You ask to speak.' Then says something about her mother?” McLean tweeted.
She later deleted the post and apologized.
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley denounced the “racist, bigoted comments” on Twitter.