By: Winston Rogers
About a dozen people gathered in front of the United Gas Station and Capitol Liquors at 2013 Harden Street to protest the business after the owner verbally and physically assaulted the Town of Gray Court councilwoman.
The protest was in response to a video posted to Councilwoman Shaterica Neal’s Facebook page.
Members of the community, including Councilwoman Neal stood in front of the store calling for the owner, “Joe” to be arrested and the store shut down. Several people held up signs calling for justice and for members of the community to not spend another dollar in the store.
“No one needs to shop at this store if black women are going to be assaulted,” community member Jerome Bowers said, “If I can help it, this business won’t exist in our community at all.”
Rye Martinez, who grew up in Allen Benedict Court stated, “We [her family] come to this store every day… we know Joe personally and what he has done is unacceptable. We are going to make sure black people are protected when they go into any store in Columbia. This is the last time someone is assaulted in our city and we are quiet about it.”
Many of the protestors also expressed being exhausted with the treatment of black women in the community.
“We are out here so black girls can grow up and not worry about being assaulted or treated like how our sister yesterday was treated.” Bowers stated.
Another protester also commented that, “If you’re going to swing on a woman and call her a Donkey N***** B****, what would you do to my daughter?”
According to her Facebook page, on June 23, Town of Gray Court Councilwoman Neal stopped by the United Gas Station after volunteering at the polls. She noticed several people sitting at the front of the store and offered them pizza.
Upon returning from her car to give them the pizza, the business owner stepped outside and told Neal to “Get the F*** from in front of my store.” Neal then says she got into a verbal altercation with Joe and went back to get her phone to record. While doing so, Joe reportedly called the police as he continued to verbally assault Councilwoman Neal.
In the video posted to the councilwoman’s Facebook page, Joe attempted several times to strike out towards the camera while on the phone with police. He was heard on video calling Councilwoman Neal a ‘monkey’.
The owner fully identified as Youssef “Joe” El Ammouri was arrested by the City of Columbia Police Department during the protest.