A Long Island restaurant owner who called people peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd animals and savages and said he would throw watermelons at them in a Facebook video is being slammed as racist.
Luigi Petrone, the co-owner of Tutto Pazzo restaurant, recorded a Facebook Live on Monday afternoon as protesters approached New York Avenue in Huntington Village, where his business is located.
“Bunch of kids, little punks, they look like little animals, savages,” he said at the beginning of the video.
He estimated in the video, first reported by Huntington Now, that there were 100 police officers present. A Suffolk County police spokeswoman told NBC News the protest was peaceful.
Petrone then turned the camera on himself and another man, who he identifies as “Augie Jr.,” and says the two “were ready.” Augie Abbatiello Jr. is the co-owner of Pancho Villa’s restaurant, which is also on New York Avenue.
“We don’t joke around,” Petrone says into the camera as he walks with Abbatiello trailing behind.
“They knew they’re coming to Huntington, they’re going to have a problem,” Petrone continued, adding “they came in and they came out.”
“They saw a bunch of us with a bunch of watermelons we were going to throw at them. You know what I mean? All the watermelons. They can’t mess with us people in Huntington.”
The video ends as they arrive nearPancho Villa’s restaurant.
Sabrina Chavez, 22, a lifelong Huntington resident, saved the video and posted it to Facebook.
“THIS WAS A PEACEFUL PROTEST AND IT STILL WAS A PROBLEM TO SOME PEOPLE…,” she wrote in the post Monday. “DO YOU SEE WHY PEOPLE OF COLOR ARE FED UP NOW?”
Chavez told NBC News she felt compelled to save the video in order to “hold him accountable, because I knew he was lying and trying to make it seem like something it was not.”
She said that people she grew up with were among the racially diverse group of protesters exercising “their right to protest and being peaceful” at Monday’s demonstration that drew hundreds.
“We have to hold people accountable, especially business owners,” Chavez said. “We need business owners to support us the way we support them.”
Hundreds of thousands of people nationwide have gathered and marched in protest against police brutality since Floyd’s death last week while in Minneapolis police custody.
Petrone did not immediately return requests for comment. Calls to his restaurant went unanswered and his Facebook account is no longer active.
Petrone recorded another video on Monday after his remarks were rebuked, which Chavez also saved.
He identifies himself at the start of the video and says he did something that he “did not want to do.”
“I totally am apologetic for what happened today,” he said as he stared into the camera.
“I apologize. I was wrong,” Petrone said. “I totally did not mean anything to hurt anybody. And I apologize sincerely.”
NAACP regional director Tracey Edwards, a Huntington resident, said his apology rang hollow.
In a statement posted to Facebook, Edwards, a former Huntington Town Board member, said she was sent Petrone’s video and his apology “to a small group” was not good enough.
“You need to apologize to the children that organized the peaceful protest,” she said.
Edwards also said Petrone owed the business owners in the area an apology.
“We are all trying to unite and then here you come with your video,” she said. “You need to make another video and don’t be shy. Apologize to all of us.”