News

Lebanon shop owner files hate crime complaints

Written by Daniel Walmer/Lebanon Daily News | Oct 2, 2017 7:30 AM

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This photo taken from by Google shows the Jim Thorpe Thrift Shop at 631 Cumberland St. while it was still in operation. (Photo: Google)

A black downtown Lebanon business owner who closed his store earlier this year said he was the victim of racial discrimination and Ku Klux Klan activity over the past year.

Jim Thorpe owned the Jim Thorpe Thrift Shop at 631 Cumberland St. in a portion of a building that he had rented, and said he also lived at the same location for about six years.

Last fall, he was refused service and otherwise discriminated against because of his race at a Lebanon restaurant that he frequented, he said.

Thorpe showed the Lebanon Daily News a copy of a complaint he filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, along with a letter he received in response from the Commission acknowledging receipt of the complaint, assigning a case number to the complaint, and scheduling a fact-finding conference for Nov. 14, 2017.

In the complaint, Thorpe says he was:

  • "Subjected to different treatment in services" between Sept. 12, 2016 and Nov. 15, 2016.
  • Shown a Ku Klux Klan certificate by the owner of the restaurant
  • Waited on last even though he arrived before white customers
  • Served "raw hamburger"
  • Told the restaurant was closed during hours that it was actually open and during which there were other customers eating in the restaurant
  • In an interview with the Lebanon Daily News, Thorpe said the restaurant owner showed him the KKK certificate and said, "Jim, look at this, isn't this beautiful?"

The name of the restaurant is listed in the complaint but is not being published by the Lebanon Daily News because it has not been cited by a government agency and the owner has not been charged by police in relation to the incident.

"It was 100 percent wrong, what he did," Thorpe said. "It was inappropriate, simple as that."

Thorpe said that the restaurant owner allowed him to take the KKK certificate out of the restaurant. Thorpe then showed it to another local business owner so he would have a witness to validate what had happened. Thorpe provided the name of the second business owner to the Lebanon Daily News, but that second business owner refused to comment or confirm that he had seen the certificate.

September 12 was the first day Thorpe was told by employees of the restaurant that it was closed while other customers were being served, while Nov. 15 was the last time Thorpe visited the restaurant, he said.

It is not the first time this year that a black man claimed to be refused service at a restaurant because of his race - the other issue happened in Annville and is not part of Thorpe's complaints.

Lebanon Valley College student Ricky Bugg said in January that a manager at Just Wing It in Annville called him the n-word and said "you don't need to eat here." Chris Behney, founder of the Just Wing It brand, said Bugg was asked to leave that night but only because Bugg and another student said they were going to leave without paying, argued with Behney, and smashed a ketchup bottle.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and Lebanon Daily News.

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