Members of Louisville, Kentucky’s Democratic Socialists of America branch say they were drinking in the city when members of far-right groups attacked them, possibly with pepper spray.
Louisville DSA members were drinking on the patio of The Silver Dollar, a local bar, when a crowd of men confronted them from the sidewalk, cell phone footage of the incident last Thursday shows. The men, who allegedly pepper-sprayed the DSA members before the footage began, hurled insults at the group, calling them “commies” and threatening them if they came to the neighborhood again. At least two of the men were members of far-right groups, including a fringe militia and the hate group the Proud Boys.
“Don’t come in my area anymore,” a man yelled at DSA members in the footage. He and a small crowd of men were standing on the sidewalk feet from the patio, where DSA members were sitting. “I catch any of you up here, I promise you. This is your only goddamn warning. Fucking commie-ass bastards.”
“What are you promising us?” a woman asked him from off camera.
In a Facebook post later that evening, the restaurant’s co-owner said the far-right crowd “were asked to leave but, before they did, they pepper sprayed the guests who were meeting, along with our general manager.”
The DSA and other Louisville activists later identified some of the men as members of the far-right groups. The Louisville Courier-Journal confirmed the identity of one of the men, militia member Shannon Ashby, last week.
“Louisville DSA members were attacked by white nationalists while meeting in a restaurant on the evening of September 27, 2018,” the Louisville DSA said in a statement, pointing to symbols on the men’s clothing that indicated membership in far-right groups. “The far-right group verbally harassed our members and then attacked them with a substance we believe to be pepper spray. Nobody was seriously harmed, but it is clear that the far-right will become violent towards working people who resist their agenda. We will not be intimidated by these cowardly acts.”
Ashby is a member of the American Action Force Three Percent, part of a loose affiliation of “three-percent” militias. The groups skew far-right, and some chapters have rallied around opposition to the left, going as far as to clash with leftist groups in public. But unlike at public rallies, where opposing groups might anticipate a fight, the DSA members had been hosting a low-key “socialist chat” at the bar, according to a Facebook event page the group created for the evening.
Ashby told The Daily Beast his crowd didn’t know the DSA members would be at the bar when they approached its patio en masse. According to a police report, the far-right crowd numbered “fifteen to twenty people,” up to a dozen of whom were AAF members, Ashby told the Courier-Journal. Local activists published a report claiming to identify another man as a member of the American Guard, and two more as members of the Proud Boys. The American Guard and the Proud Boys are both Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate groups that sometimes collaborate in demonstrations, recently against leftists.
Proud Boys and DSA members have previously clashed in Louisville.
“The Proud Boys have attempted to crash our events before and once left flyers on cars parked outside one of our meeting locations,” a Louisville DSA spokesperson alleged.
Ashby claimed the altercation began when a Proud Boy in his crowd recognized a DSA member he had fought with earlier this summer, although the details of the alleged incident are vague. He sent The Daily Beast a screenshot from a racist account affiliated with the Proud Boys. The user claimed in July that one of the Proud Boys involved in the Silver Dollar incident had been attacked by unspecified “antifa terrorists” in New Albany, Indiana, across the river from Louisville. The post, which encouraged readers to “hate Marxists” included pictures of the Proud Boy’s head injuries.
He was uncertain of the alleged incident’s exact date. Provided only with the Proud Boy’s various names (a Facebook alias, and one that appears to be his legal name), New Albany police were unable to locate any incident reports involving the Proud Boy.
“It doesn’t ring a bell off the top of my head,” a New Albany police spokesperson told The Daily Beast when asked if police had received any reports of baseball bat attacks in July.
Police also declined to make arrests when diners called them to The Silver Dollar.
“Officers responded to a call of a general trouble at the Silver Dollar, where the complainant stated they were being harassed. Upon arrival, this Officer observed two groups arguing, one group on the sidewalk and the other on the business property,” Louisville police said in a statement. “After seperating the groups, this Officer spoke with complainants on the business property. This Officer was advised the complainants had been sprayed with some type of ‘pepper spray’. Complainants advised the group on the sidewalk was fifteen to twenty people prior to our arrival, and that they could not advise which individual in the group sprayed the irritant.”
A police report categorizes the incident as fourth-degree (minor injury) assault. The three unnamed victims in a redacted police report were identified as a 34-year-old woman, a 29-year-old woman, and a 21-year-old man. Restaurant staff have filed a complaint with police, the Louisville DSA spokesperson said. The Silver Dollar’s co-owner, who authored a Facebook post describing the incident as an attack by “white nationalists,” declined an interview, citing harassment against her and restaurant staff.
Trolls appear to have targeted the restaurant’s previously positive Yelp reviews. As of Monday afternoon, The Silver Dollar’s last four reviews are from out-of-state users giving the restaurant one-star ratings, specifically targeting its manager or accusing the food of sending diners to the emergency room.
“The manager was making racist jokes that my friend overheard,” one California reviewer wrote. The manager, according to the co-owner’s Facebook post, had been pepper sprayed after asking the far-right group to leave. “Boycott this place if you have any integrity and taste buds.”