Well over 100 people marched peacefully through downtown Saturday in response to an alleged racially charged assault involving a Portofino manager and three teen girls.
Three black Henry Clay High School students say that a white manager at Portofino chased them through downtown and assaulted them on Nov. 5 after accusing them of stealing a jacket.
“They were savagely and brutally attacked, assaulted, and our government does not seem to be trying to provide justice for these young ladies,” community activist Corey Dunn told those at the Justice or Else march.
He said police have talked about making sure the manager is safe.
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“Why did they not make sure those girls were safe?” he asked. “If they don’t make sure the children are safe, then it’s our responsibility and our duty to do so. We are here today to let it be known we ain’t playing no more. We’re not going to accept it. ... What happened to those girls cannot be changed, but we will get justice.”
He and fellow speaker Damon Muhammad told the crowd that a “Squash the Beef” hotline had been set up for people who feel like they need help that does not involve the police.
Lexington police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said Friday the investigation into the Portofino incident is “ongoing.”
“We continue to talk to individuals involved and independent witnesses, and gather surveillance video from surrounding buildings,” Angel said.
Saturday’s march started at the courthouse plaza and headed down Main Street.
Police initially blocked traffic on Main Street just before Portofino. The marchers, concerned that their message was not being heard by the public, continued down Main to Thoroughbred Park, then came back to occupy the sidewalk in front of the restaurant after police reopened traffic.
They chanted slogans such as “hands off our kids” and “black lives matter.”
Lights which were on inside the restaurant briefly were turned off after the protesters stopped in front of the building and stayed.
“We want to hurt their pocket because we want justice,” said Sarah Williams.
Wayne Masterman, who owns Portofino, issued a statement Friday saying that Portofino “has a record rooted in strong community service and inclusiveness. We consider fairness and diversity to be bedrock principles for our philosophy of serving the public. We believe these values are reflected in all aspects of our practices.”
Masterman continued, saying that there are conflicting reports on the evening’s events, and that he thinks “the outcome of the official inquiries ... will show a much different picture than those that have been put forth on social media.”
“We hope that the community at large will be patient and allow the authorities to do their work. Rest assured that we want only to determine the truth about the facts and will respond according to those facts.”
The girls involved in the incident were Queen Gates, 17; Trinity Gates, 16; and Crystal Flowers, 16. Abigail Gates, mother of Queen and Trinity Gates, attended Saturday’s march and spoke briefly, thanking those in attendance.
“This has been real heavy on my heart,” she said. “I haven’t slept, you know, because my daughter has nightmares because of the police.”
She said seeing the group gathered in their support “should ease them a little bit, you know, make them feel better.”
“For everybody to come together like this is a major blessing,” she said.