A man berated employees and customers for speaking Spanish in a New York restaurant, describing them as undocumented and threatening to call immigration officials in a rant captured on video.
The incident happened Tuesday at a Fresh Kitchen in Manhattan, according to Edward Suazo, who posted a video of the encounter on Facebook, saying his wife and her friend were the target of the man’s anger.
The video starts with a man in a white collared shirt confronting employees and customers in the restaurant.
“Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” the man says, holding a white iPhone and pointing at the Spanish speakers for emphasis.
“Every person I listen to: He spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it. This is America!” he says.
Someone in the background interrupts him and calls him ignorant. Others hurl expletives at him.
“Yeah, this is America. So ignorant,” another person tells him as laughter breaks out.
The man continues to express his displeasure to an employee and threatens to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
“My guess is they’re not documented. So my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country,” he says.
“If they have the balls to come here and live off my money, I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they can do … is speak English.”
He then tells the employee, “If you intend on running a place in Midtown Manhattan, your staff should speak English. Not Spanish.”
A woman tries to engage the man just before he walks out. He turns around and says, “Honey, I’m calling ICE.”
“Call ICE!” the woman shoots back. Before leaving, he tells the woman, “Maybe you shouldn’t eat that sandwich, take a break from the food.”
The woman yells back, “Maybe you should get hit by a car,” as the man storms out of the restaurant.
A woman who did not want to be identified told CNN affiliate PIX11 News that she’s the one challenging the man in the video. She said she called police to report a public disturbance, but the man had left.
‘What a big man’
In a Facebook post, Suazo said his wife and her best friend were talking to a waiter in Spanish when the man butted in and angrily demanded that they speak English.
“What a big man talking down to couple of women and a helpless employee,” he posted. “I wish someone tells me I can’t speak in my native language! First of all they (weren’t) talking to you.”
CNN has reached out to Suazo to get more details. His video had been viewed 4.4 million times by early Thursday, with some identifying the man as a lawyer with an office near the restaurant.
CNN has called and left messages at the law office the man apparently owns but has not heard back. After the incident, people inundated the law firm’s social media accounts with messages. Local tabloid New York Daily News featured an image of the man on its front page of Thursday’s edition.
In an email, Fresh Kitchen said the store is a public area for breakfast and lunch and welcomes everyone from all types of cultures.
Everyone has a mind of his own, the company said, “But in (a) public area, disturbing others or making (a) comment like that is not right at all.”
In what appeared to be a reference to the incident, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted that the city’s strength was its diversity.
“It’s what makes this city great. The 8.6 million people who call this city home speak more than 200 languages — they’re all New Yorkers and they’re all welcome here,” de Blasio said Wednesday.
A previous incident?
The Fresh Kitchen run-in may not be the first such outburst from the man.
Willie Morris, a 34-year-old consultant and adviser for tech companies, said he recognized him from a similar encounter on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue in October 2016.
Morris said he was walking down the street when a man in the opposite direction made eye contact with him, sped up and made a beeline for him.
“He immediately … starts yelling mostly racist and xenophobic stuff,” Morris said. “I was so shocked, I’ve lived in NYC for five years and have never had anything like this happen. I was waiting for someone to jump out and scream, ‘Gotcha!’ ”
Morris posted video of the incident, along with his own commentary, to YouTube the next day. In the video, a man can be seen asking Morris, “What country are you from?” and then saying: “I’m going to call the police. You don’t run into me. I’m a citizen here, you’re not. You’re an ugly f***ing foreigner. F*** you.”
CNN couldn’t independently confirm it was the same man in both videos.
In commentary afterward, Morris said he was born in Massachusetts, and he held up his passport.
“It was so surreal,” he told CNN. “Thankfully, I had started vlogging a few months before so I had turned my camera on and caught it all. He was threatening to call the cops, but he eventually walked away, and we realized it wasn’t just a weird stunt.”
The Fresh Kitchen video jolted his memory about the incident.
“I let it go and pretty much forgot about it until I was scrolling through Twitter yesterday and randomly saw a thumbnail and thought, ‘No freaking way! ‘” Morris said.