An apologetic sign was taped to the door and a group of protesters gathered in front of Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt in Kirkland’s Totem Lake area Tuesday morning.
The activity followed the city of Kirkland and Kirkland Police Department issuing an apology after police were called on a black man on Nov. 7 while he was at Menchie’s.
In the police report, Kirkland officers said they responded to a call from the store’s owner Ramon Cruz after one of his employees called him saying there was a man in the store making her uncomfortable. Cruz asked police to ask the 31-year-old Byron Ragland to leave the store.
James Bible, former member of the NAACP and now a civil rights attorney who is representing Ragland, told the Reporter after the protest:
“Essentially from my perspective, we’re in a place where this particular establishment judged Mr. Byron by the color of his skin as opposed to the content of his character. Rather than seeing him as a decorated military veteran, they just saw his black skin; rather than seeing him as a court-appointed special advocate who’s dedicated to keeping families together, they only looked at his black skin and determined it was suspicious; rather than being in a space where they saw him as a University of Washington student, he’s just trying to do the best that he can, they deemed his black skin to be suspicious.”
Ragland was at Menchie’s on Nov. 7 as a court-appointed special advocate and visitation supervisor who oversees meetings between children and parents who have lost custody of them. He was at the frozen yogurt shop with a mother and son at the time.
The store’s sign reads in part:
“We humbly apologize to Mr. Ragland for what he experienced during his visit. This does not reflect our values, and we are genuinely sorry.” The store was closed today “in order to conduct training to our staff, so that we can make sure that this will not happen again in our store.”
Bible said he is disappointed that when law enforcement was called to the scene, they asked him to leave. Bible added that this has impacted Ragland and communities, and that’s why they were taking a stand today.
“At this stage, we’re here to say that that sort of thing isn’t OK, not acceptable and we’re gonna stand for more than that. We believe people need to be judged by the character that they have as opposed to the color of their skin.”
A Snohomish area man, John (who withheld his last name for privacy reasons), was passing Menchie’s Tuesday morning when he saw the protest and joined the crowd to listen to the speakers. He had heard about the situation in the news. Police were present at the protest and they coned off the parking lot.
“It’s definitely a problem. It’s frustrating because we’ve been at this for many years, and we haven’t made any progress,” John said, adding that people need to delve into both sides of the story to find a solution.
J. Paul Blake, who works in public outreach and engagement, was at the protest since, “It hits me personally because I’ve experienced the same thing for absolutely no reason other than the color of my skin.”
A couple of years ago, Blake said he was asked by a man at a Seattle Sounders match to leave the stadium and two policemen then escorted Blake outside.
“I leave the stadium with them and I said, ‘Why am I being kicked out?’…. (Police responded) ‘Because he said so’… never seen the guy before, he’s never seen me before as far as I know,” said Blake, who received a letter of apology from the Sounders and continues to attend matches.
Blake called the situation, “Standing while black.”