A dispute over what seemed to be a group of people ignoring social distancing measures in Philadelphia nearly turned deadly on Sunday when a bar owner, who is white pulled a gun on a Black man, according to reports.
The incident took place in the Old City section of the town when a group of friends were at a restaurant having drinks. Apparently none of them decided to follow guidelines to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus causing a Black man to pull up on his bicycle shouting: “Social distancing! No one is wearing a mask!” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. People at the restaurant, in turn, began shouting back for him to go away.
Jamie Atlig, the owner of a nearby bar, stood up to confront the bicyclist. A woman at the scene, Liz Krieger, 27, told the Inquirer the two began a heated exchange in which the bicyclist shouted “MAGA privilege,” referring to President Trump’s campaign slogan, which has been associated with far right, and some might say racist, narratives. At the same time, Atlig shouted “Trump 2020” in response.
Suddenly, Krieger said, Atlig pulled out a weapon, causing the cyclist to freeze, then grab his bike lock to defend himself. “People were screaming, ‘He has a gun!‘” she recalled. “And I was screaming, ‘He has a bike lock!‘”
After a few seconds, Atlig put his weapon away and the cyclist took off on his bike. Atlig’s lawyer, Robert Gamburg confirmed that the bicyclist was being “confrontational” and “menacing.”
“Mr. Atlig is licensed to carry a firearm. He has extensive firearm training. He’s a business owner and he was being threatened,” Gamburg told the Inquirer. “The individual reached behind his back for an object, Mr. Atlig upholstered his licensed firearm, defused the situation, and sat back down.”
Gamburg said Atlig was questioned by police, although it is unclear who called them to the restaurant.
Krieger, who doesn’t feel the bicyclist was necessarily the aggressor, said cops arrived not long after the conflict started but didn’t take a report because the cyclist had left. She shared the story with the office of Philadelphia city councilman Isaiah Thomas, who posted the video to his Twitter account.
“The Black man doesn’t need to be killed for this to be a story,” Krueger said. “A man had a gun pulled on him for speaking the truth. We weren’t social distancing. He was completely in the right to be yelling at us — and if I hadn’t been there, this is how Black people are shot and it’s claimed later that he had a bike lock on him and people thought it was a gun. But let’s be clear: The bike lock was never pulled out [until after the gun was].”
Philadelphia police said they were actively investigating the incident. Law enforcement officials are already dealing with the aftermath of a violent Fourth of July weekend in the city in which 21 people were shot in a six-hour span, including five deaths, according to CBS Philadelphia.