A private dinner party hosted in a restaurant by white nationalist leader Richard Spencer in Washington, D.C. on the eve of a far-right conference was condemned on Facebook by the restaurant’s management.
The Friendship Heights branch of Maggiano’s Little Italy told their social media following in a statement: “we want to sincerely apologize to the community of Friendship Heights for inadvertently hosting this meeting, which resulted in hateful sentiment”. They pledged that they will be “donating the profits from our restaurant sales on Friday, $10,000, to the DC office of the Anti-Defamation League, which for decades has been working to bring people together in peace and understanding.”
Richard Spencer heads the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist organization that brands itself as the think-tank of the ‘alt-right’. The NPI conference over the weekend discussing “The Future of the Alt-Right” was one of many jubilant gatherings held by extreme right organizations across the United States to celebrate the election of Donald Trump, with whom they regard as having a “psychic connection”.
The dinner on Friday was disrupted by the DC Antifascist Coalition, who had already encouraged Washington residents to phone the original location of the NPI’s dinner plans – The Hamilton – and urge them to cancel the reservation at the last minute. The flash-mob then traced the NPI party to Maggiano’s and blocked the stairway outside the private dining room.
The demonstrators were directly addressed and absolved in the restaurant’s statement:
“The protesters were upset because of a banquet we were hosting for a group called the National Policy Institute (NPI). This was a last-minute booking made Friday afternoon, and the reservation was made under a different name, therefore we were not aware that NPI was dining with us or what the group represents.”
Despite eyewitnesses who filmed the event reporting that several Maggiano’s staff members applauded the protesters (one even danced with them), Spencer falsely told a press conference the following day that the DC Antifascist Coalition “attacked” staff and attendees, and told reporters that the antifascists are “very willing to use physical violence in order to suppress speech”. At almost the exact moment Spencer was saying this, an NPI supporter outside the building grabbed a protester from behind without warning or provocation, attempting a choke-hold until members of the crowd and police officers intervened.
A spokesperson for the demonstrators, Lacy MacAuley, told the press: “it is not enough to reject Trump. We must also reject Trumpism, fascism, and white supremacy.”
MacAuley continued: “our country is in a dangerous period when this hateful ideology is allowed to strut through our Washington DC government buildings to try to build momentum for ethnic cleansing. Make no mistake — they may speak in lofty academic language and wear suits, but these white supremacists want a white homeland and forced sterilization for people of color right here in the United States.”
A New York Times journalist stayed at the NPI gathering on Saturday long after the press conference had ended, and reported that by the end of the night when most of the media had left, Spencer discarded his cloak of respectability. He “railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people.”
The NYT account states that as Spencer was finishing his speech, many supporters had their arms extended in Nazi salutes.