[The New York Times] Korean-Americans Seek Boycott After an Attack in a McDonald’s in Queens


Several Korean-American groups on Tuesday called for the boycott of a McDonald’s restaurant in Queens where a Korean patron was struck this year by an employee wielding a broomstick.

At a rally in front of the restaurant, the groups’ leaders demanded that the restaurant and its parent corporation improve their employees’ ethnic sensitivity training and customer service.

It is the second time this year that Korean community groups have mobilized protests against a McDonald’s restaurant in Flushing, a neighborhood in Queens heavily populated by immigrants from East Asia.

From left, Young Jin Kim, Christine Colligan, Stephen Kim and Mi Shim outside a McDonald’s in Queens that they say has disrespected Koreans.Korean Community Leaders Urge McDonald’s BoycottJAN. 16, 2014
In January, community leaders called for a boycott against a McDonald’s franchise on Northern Boulevard after managers called the police on several occasions to remove older Korean men and women who had turned the restaurant into a de facto clubhouse, hanging out for hours and ordering only cups of coffee. That dispute was resolved when a local official helped broker a détente between the owner and the patrons.

The new protest stems from a 10-month-old confrontation that is the subject of pending civil and criminal cases.

The patron, James Jin Kim, 62, claimed that the employee attacked him on Feb. 16 after he complained about the slow pace of service at the restaurant, a McDonald’s franchise on Main Street, a busy thoroughfare in the commercial heart of Flushing.

According to a lawsuit filed in April in State Supreme Court in Queens, Mr. Kim claimed that after waiting in line for 10 minutes to order a cup of coffee, he complained to the cashier. “Too much time,” he said, according to the lawsuit.

In response, Mr. Kim said, an employee behind the counter retorted, “We don’t serve coffee to people like you,” and added, “Get out of my restaurant!”

According to the complaint, Mr. Kim then took out his phone and recorded a video. The employee, Rooshi Sajjad, walked around the counter, grabbed a broomstick and struck Mr. Kim’s hand, “barely missing his head and eyes,” the lawsuit said.

The police were called, and Ms. Sajjad was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors, attempted assault and criminal possession of a weapon, and one violation, harassment, officials said.

In August, Ms. Sajjad accepted an offer of adjudication in contemplation of dismissal — meaning that the matter would be dismissed as long as she stayed out of trouble during the ensuing six months, officials in the Queens district attorney’s office said. In addition, the deal included a full order of protection for Mr. Kim, forbidding Ms. Sajjad to have any contact with him, officials said.

Last week, Mr. Kim’s lawyers obtained the surveillance videos of the February episode from the restaurant and released them to WCBS, which broadcast excerpts on Monday, prompting an uproar among Koreans and the call to action on Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, eight people representing four Korean community groups gathered outside the McDonald’s on Main Street, near the intersection with Roosevelt Avenue. They held signs with messages denouncing the restaurant, like “Violent Mgr in McDonald’s” and “U Can B Hit in McDonald’s.”

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Christine Colligan, co-president of the Korean American Parents Association of Greater New York and the leader of the protest, said the videos rendered the 10-month-old allegations visceral and persuaded many in the community of the merits of Mr. Kim’s case.

“We realized that this happened,” Ms. Colligan, a Korean immigrant, said.

In the soundless footage, the altercation begins and ends in a matter of seconds: Mr. Kim — wearing a flat cap, winter coat and scarf — stands at the counter. He exchanges words with employees, then pulls out his cellphone and trains the camera on the employees behind the counter. Ms. Sajjad lunges across the counter apparently in an attempt to snatch his cellphone, then walks around the counter and disappears. Suddenly, a broomstick, wielded by an unseen assailant beyond the cameras’ frames, strikes Mr. Kim.

In his lawsuit, which seeks at least $10 million in damages, Mr. Kim claims unlawful discrimination, civil battery and assault, the intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision. Through his lawyer, Christine M. Bae, he declined to be interviewed.

In addition to Ms. Sajjad, the civil complaint names McDonald’s Restaurants of New York Inc. and McDonald’s Corporation. Two law firms representing the defendants did not respond to calls for comment. Ms. Sajjad’s public defender in the criminal case did not respond to a phone message left on Tuesday evening.

Luigi Solimeo, the owner of the McDonald’s on Main Street, issued a statement, saying: “The safety and well-being of my customers and employees is of utmost importance. As this is a legal and personnel matter, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.”