Eastside News

Protest held at yogurt shop where police were called on social worker

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Nearly two weeks after the owner of a Kirkland yogurt shop asked police to remove an African-American man his workers said frightened them, the NAACP is calling for a boycott.

Moreover, Byron Ragland says he is not accepting the apologies being offered by the owner of Menchie's nor from the city of Kirkland.

He says he wants concrete action.

"Results," said Ragland.

He stood outside the shop, flanked by Seattle civil rights activists. Just 13 days ago, Ragland was supervising a court-ordered visitation between a mother and her young son. When he hadn't bought anything at the yogurt shop, Kirkland police asked him to leave at the owner's request.

"We definitely should boycott this store," he said. "Those two young ladies that were very petrified, they definitely should take a break from work, especially from the service realm."

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​But the Air Force veteran and University of Washington student says he wants something more.

"I think we need to make sure Ramon Cruz is unable to renew his business license here," said Ragland, to applause. "And when the lease to this store is up, we need to make sure Byron Ragland has the capital and the resources to purchase this Menchie's and the two other restaurants he owns in the community."

Cruz insisted his call to Kirkland Police was motivated solely by the concerns of his employees.

"There was nothing about race, no color," he said to KIRO 7 last Saturday.

He and his young staff were on edge, he said, because of violent incidents here and at his other restaurants.

"Now I know that was a mistake, right?" he said. "I should not have associated previous incidents in our other stores."

And the city of Kirkland is investigating whether its officers acted improperly, too.

"We really see this as a missed opportunity," said Kellie Stickney, city spokeswoman. "We could have come in and help to mediate a misunderstanding between the owner and Mr. Ragland and the individuals that were with him. But we didn't do that."

That likely will not satisfy Ragland.

"I say you cannot allow white supremacy to scurry away in the corner," said Ragland, "and lick its wounds and regroup."

The owner of Menchie's, which is on 124th Northeast Street, closed for the day. He said he and his staff would spend the day beginning anti-bias training.

Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett said Tuesday night, at a regularly scheduled city council meeting, that all city employees will undergo implicit bias training in 2019.

“We will be launching a new community outreach strategy,” said Triplett, who said the city plans to connect with 911 dispatchers and local businesses to discuss what happened.

The city has asked the executive director of NORCOM, the dispatch center, to formally review the 911 call from the yogurt shop, according to Triplett, who said policies and procedures for unwanted subject and trespassing calls will also be examined and changed where necessary.

“This has been a difficult week for our community,” said Kirkland Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold, reading from a statement at Tuesday’s city council meeting. “The incident at Menchie’s has caused each of us to ask ourselves many challenging questions about race and inclusion.”

The city, in a document given to KIRO 7, said a group of community members are planning a community meeting tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday where “the perspectives of our community can be heard by city leadership.”

A time and location for Tuesday’s meeting have not yet been released.

Triplett said the scope, schedule and budget for next year’s citywide implicit bias training will be presented to city council members by their first January 2019 meeting.

Ragland says he is considering legal action.