A male drag performer was punched, kicked, and dragged by his hair on the floor at the Manny & Olga’s pizzeria on 14th Street, N.W., about 2 a.m. Sunday by two female attackers in an incident that was captured on video taken by a bystander who cheered the attackers.
An official with the D.C. police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit said police were investigating the incident and were reviewing the video, which had been posted on at least two websites, to determine the identity of the attackers. The incident was expected to be classified as a hate crime.
Miles DeNiro, 24, who had just performed under his drag name Heidi Glum at the nearby Black Cat nightclub, said he suffered cuts and bruises to his head and upper body and had clumps of hair pulled from his head in an encounter he described as horrifying and traumatic.
“I had ordered some food and was waiting and one girl approached me and she started touching my face, telling me I needed to blend my makeup,” DeNiro told the Washington Blade.
DeNiro, who said he identifies as a gay man, said he was dressed in drag after just having completed a performance at the Black Cat.
He said he asked the woman not to touch him and to “please back off” when another woman approached him and began calling him a “tranny” and “shouted insults at me saying I was a man and a faggot.” He said he shouted back as the name-calling escalated and one of the women slapped him in the face twice.
“Then I flipped out,” DeNiro said. “I spit in her face and her friend jumped in and they started dragging me around by my hair while punching me in the face repeatedly and kicking me,” he said. “They had me held down on the ground and they were pulling my hair out.”
The video shows the two women dragging and punching him before knocking him to the floor as bystanders shouted and cheered. An unidentified man who took the video can be heard repeatedly shouting and screaming the words “World Star,” which refers to a hip hop music website, on which the video was later posted.
The video shows DeNiro wiping blood from his forehead which he said came from at least two cuts on his head sustained when he was knocked to the floor.
Someone also posted the video on YouTube, but the popular video website took down the video a short time later and posted a message saying, “This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube’s policy on shocking and disgusting content.”
The video, which was also posted on the site liveleak.com, shows one of the Manny & Olga’s employees walking past where the women were punching DeNiro while carrying out several boxes of pizzas.
“There were five or six workers behind the counter or in the kitchen area and none of them did anything to stop it,” DeNiro said.
The assault ended, according to DeNiro, when two men walked into the restaurant from the sidewalk and pulled the two women away from him.
“I don’t know who they are but they appeared to have seen what was happening through the window and came in to help,” he said.
DeNiro said two friends who were with him drove him home. He said he chose not to call police at the time of the incident but reported the attack to police Monday afternoon at the Third Police District at 17th and V Street, N.W.
Sgt. Matt Mahl, supervisor of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, said police first learned about the incident a few hours earlier when Rick Rosendall, president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, emailed a link to the video of the incident to the GLLU office. Rosendall told the Blade he received the video in an email sent by one of DeNiro’s friends, who also sent a link to the video to the Blade and other news media outlets.
Police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump told the Blade a second police report was filed by a party other than DeNiro related to an incident at Manny & Olga’s, but she didn’t identify who the other party was.
A man who identified himself only as Jamie and said he was a manager at Manny & Olga’s, located at 1841 14th Street, N.W., said the owners of the carry out restaurant were cooperating with police. He said the owners agreed to a request by police to show investigators footage from Manny & Olga’s in-house video surveillance cameras taken at the time of the incident. He said police were scheduled to view the video at 9 p.m. Tuesday evening.
“It’s my understanding that someone here did call the police and the police came,” Jamie told the Blade.
But DeNiro said police did not come before he left the restaurant to go home sometime after 2 a.m. on June 23. He said police could have arrived for an unrelated incident at the restaurant on a night in which he said “a lot of rowdy people” were on the street outside and inside Manny & Olga’s.”
DeNiro said he regrets that when he arrived home and observed the extent of his injuries, including damage to his scalp where hair had been pulled from its roots, that he posted two messages on his Twitter account using a racial slur to describe one of the two women attackers who is black.
The LGBT news website Queerty, which posted a story about the assault against DeNiro, quoted DeNiro’s Twitter postings, which used the “N” word.
The Queerty story prompted at least 20 readers to post comments debating one another over whether DeNiro’s racial comment should overshadow the significance of the assault, which many readers said was motivated by anti-gay and anti-trans prejudice.
“I was angry. I was irritated,” DeNiro told the Blade. “I said some things that I of course regret. I can’t change the past but I can only move forward and learn from this to become a better person.”