After Maggiano’s Little Italy in Friendship Heights rented banquet space to the National Policy Institute, a White Nationalist organization “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent,” questions are being asked about what the restaurant could have done when they figured out who and what was coming to dinner. The reservation was made under the name “Griffin Family Reunion,” and Maggiano’s claims they did not know in advance the nature of the group or their affiliations. After three members of the party had shared a photo of themselves saluting in a “Heil Hitler” pose on Twitter, Maggiano’s was forced to comment on the event, and made a donation to the Anti-Defamation League in response.
Anti-semitic speech, including swastikas painted on schools and churches, seems to be increasing, while questions are being raised about the sentiments of Trump cabinet appointee Stephen Bannon, formerly of Breitbart, says the Inquisitr. Bannon has reportedly made comments critical of several minority groups, and many feel it is a sign that the new administration is tolerant of hate groups.
Considering the level of apology that Maggiano’s delivered, people are asking if they could have turned the NPI away, and the answer is yes, according to the Washington Business Journal. Maggiano’s Little Italy is located in the Friendship Heights neighborhood of the District, and Washington, D.C. has some of the strictest human rights laws in the country.
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Mike Selmi, a law professor at George Washington University, says that the laws would prevent someone discriminating against a political party, but not an ideology.
“Excluding them would not have run afoul of the law in D.C.”
Federal laws also would not provide the group protection against discrimination, and so Maggiano’s could have turned them away based on their white supremacy ideology. Scott Michaelman, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU, says this situation brings up unique considerations.
“When courts and policymakers think about protected classes, they think about issues whether they are discriminating on that basis for legitimate reasons or whether that group is politically powerless in the face of discrimination.”
This particular White Nationalist group is bonded by an ideology, and not a religious or political affiliation.
“With respect to an ideological group, businesses may say, ‘I find their ideas abhorrent’ or ‘I don’t want to stir up controversy.’ But the justification for legal protection based on racial or sexual identification is much stronger. That’s why many state and local anti-discrimination laws protect LGBT rights.”
Regardless, groups often do not book a table or a room using the name of their organization, and that is what happened to Maggiano’s. After the party, the restaurant chain put out a statement to that effect.
“Therefore we were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents. After the event, an attendee sent a tweet in which she made a ‘Sieg Heil salute’ in support of Hitler and white supremacy. This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to Teammates and Guests of every race, religion and cultural background.”
Steven Shapiro, director of the Hospitality & Tourism Law Program at American University’s Washington College of Law, says that fear of violence would have been another reason that Maggiano’s could have turned the group away. After members of the dining party started tweeting their Hitleresque messages, protestors did show up outside the restaurant.
“Businesses have the ability to say ‘no’ if there is a fear of violence. That would have been an easy case to make. If it was posted by the group somewhere that ‘We are going to Maggiano’s at 7 p.m.,’ Maggiano’s can fairly say it was going to be a problem. But it wasn’t like someone called and said, ‘I’d like a table for 50 Nazis.’ “
Salon is reporting that the event, and who was allowed to attend the white power fete, is getting host Richard Spencer in hot water with his Neo-Nazi friends, because of who was photographed giving the “Heil Hitler” salute. It seems one of the men in the photo is Jewish, and Tila Tequila is Asian (after posting the photo, Tila Tequila was banned from Twitter). Andrew Anglin of the Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer says that Spencer has to be more choosy about who he associates with.
“If Spencer is now going to be a representative of the neo-Nazi agenda, he needs to tighten-up his ship. The last thing we need is the world believing that neo-Nazis are just a bunch of k***s and g***s.”
Do you think Maggiano’s did their best? Do you think it’s odd that Tila Tequila, a Vietnamese American, hangs out with Neo-Nazis?
[Featured Image by Twitter]