Big Brawl at El Ray Last Night – Props to the Staff but “disgust” for the patrons who filmed it

el ray
919 U Street, NW

“Dear PoPville,

My friend and I were having dinner in the back room of El Rey around 8:30 pm yesterday when a brawl broke out between a group of patrons. Only a few were actually fighting, but the crowd involved was probably about 40-50 people. Tables were flipped, chairs tossed, and at least one woman was throwing glassware at people.

The fight was eventually broken up (props to the bouncers on this!) and the crowd made their way out to the street leaving a wreck behind them. Our server told us that the two-top next to us had paid with a fake $50 and skipped out when the fighting crowd dispersed, so I imagine he was not the only server who got stiffed last night.

I am even sadder for the fact that while my friend’s first reaction, and that of several staff and other patrons, was to call 911, those closest to the fight pulled their phones out to film it. I feel disappointed and disgusted by the behavior I witnessed last night. I know there has been a long debate about whether and when to get involved when an individual witnesses crimes in action, but the very least people can do is call the police when a situation is escalating like that and putting others in danger.

Despite the incident yesterday, I will definitely be returning to El Rey. After the fight dispersed, the staff was really great and sweet to the patrons who were not involved, our server gave us a couple of beers and a series of apologies for what was clearly not his fault. I feel sad that this happened to them and their business.”

47 Comment

  • If I were involved in a fight, I would want it filmed so there’d be evidence of who was in the wrong.

    • Or you could just have some self control and not get into a public.fight…

    • HaileUnlikely

      Hope for witnesses or security camera. I don’t see how video that begins mid-fight would help much, and I assume nobody started filming *before* the fight began and thus would have missed pretty much everything important pertaining to evidence of who was in the wrong.

      • What if someone pulls out a knife or gun? Who Started It isn’t the only pertinent thing that can be caught on video. And even if the motives of the cameraman aren’t pure, the police are free to use video from Youtube or Worldstar to figure out what happened.

        • HaileUnlikely

          In the abstract, ok, fair point. However, in this case, it sounds like the people filming were egging on the fight, quite possibly prolonging it and increasing the probability that something really bad would happen.

          • Sure, we’ve all seen bystanders like that, and they can be truly revolting, but I think having it be recorded is a net positive.

          • Unless the OP chimes in with more context, I find absolutely no basis for assuming that folks filming were “egging on the fight” or perhaps “prolonging it.”

            If there is any useful lesson from the unprecedented levels of state-sanctioned violence against black citizens playing out before us all — it’s one about the importance of video footage showing any relevant parts of a confrontation. Sometimes the truth cannot be known without it. Partial footage doesn’t always tell the whole story, for sure. But that goes to its weight, not its utility.

            For that reason I think very little of arguments that a videographer has to capture an entire incident from start to finish to be useful. Hogwash! Recorded footage is certainly no worse than relying on a live eyewitness — one who inevitably hasn’t observed an entire incident from start to finish, or observed every relevant detail and angle of each moment, and one who relies on the frailty of his own memory/recollection to then relay what happened. Indeed, in most cases, I’d rather have the impartial observation of any portion of video footage of an encounter than witness testimony alone.

            Bottom line for me is — my first instinct in that situation would’ve been to alert management and call the police. And my very next instinct may very well have been to discretely whip out my camera and capture evidence that would help the police get yo the bottom of things. I think both responses are useful and appropriate.

          • HaileUnlikely

            He did, below.

  • One time in the not so distant past of this summer, my friend and I were assaulted at the taco stand outside of El Rey after we and the assaulter were inside the bar for a few hours. I WISH someone had filmed it so the police could have seen what had actually happened. The kid was still arrested and charged – but is likely not to get a serious punishment. I wouldn’t have been disgusted

    • Did you ask about surveillance cameras both inside and outside the establishment? Most places have them nowadays.

  • I have mixed feelings about how soon you should start recording on your phone. Having video of the incident early can help police to sort out things that eye-witnesses aren’t always great at remembering. I agree that 911 should be contacted immediately and should be most people’s first task, but having video of an incident like this can really help police and others find perpetrators.

  • Unless they’re shouting “WORLD STARRRR, WORLD STARRRR” while they film, getting video of the incident is a good thing. 911 getting 30 calls instead of 10 isn’t going to change the dispatch time…

  • So… did the cops show up? Were people arrested?

    • OP again, my friend who called 911 was told that response was on the scene. Given the fact that the crowd was still really tense and aggressive while heading out of the bar we decided it was safer to stay put, so I can’t say for certain what the outcome was. I was hoping maybe someone else who was there last night could give additional insight.

  • As long as it was obvious someone was calling 911, why is this a bad thing? It seems like OP is ascribing some prurient or salacious motive to the filmers. But the footage is great evidence, as many have seen in various situation over the last few years.

    • Also, El Rey may be happy for the evidence if it shows they acted well, to help avoid ABRA trouble.

    • Anonomnom

      Agreed. If I were there and it was obvious 911 was being called by multiple people, my first reaction would be to film it. Obviously not to upload to YouTube or something, but to send to El Rey so they knew who to go after for any damage and could hand something to police. Seems a bit strange to be “disgusted” with people recording, not everyone is doing so for nefarious reasons.

  • Filming this fight isn’t like the ghouls who took pictures of the man who jumped off a building downtown a few months ago, or the one who had a heart attack on metro and fell off an escalator. Video of an incident like this will help the police sort out the guilty from the innocent.

    • “Video of an incident like this will help the police sort out the guilty from the innocent.” Yes, IF the people who took the video share it with the police.
      .
      Even if that was the motivation of some of the people who were filming, I suspect others were filming for less altruistic purposes.

  • jim_ed

    I’m only disgusted if the fight is filmed in portrait and not landscape. Those are the real monsters.

  • Does El Rey get rowdy? I only stop in now and then to watch games, never been Thurs – Sat night.

    • It’s INSANE on weekend nights, even for one of these places on U. The few times I’ve been there late it’s definitely been crowded to an unsafe extent.

  • OP here, I’m all for the creation of evidence that could be used in identifying and prosecuting the perpetrators. But the few people who I saw filming were laughing about the situation and egging it on while filming it versus filming it for the creation of evidence for use by the police. The other aspect that people are overlooking is that such videos are only useful if they get in the hands of the police. I’m going to make a wild assumption that the guys laughing while filming probably did not hand their phones over to MPD when they arrived on scene or stick around to give a witness statement.

    • Anonomnom

      Ah. My above comment modified. Seems that they were filming for nefarious reasons then. Disgust warranted.

    • “the few people who I saw filming were laughing about the situation and egging it on while filming it” — As I feared. 🙁

    • If you aren’t trying to stop the altercation. I don’t see how you can take the high morale ground. Onlooker with a camera is the same as an onlooker without a camera. Either one is doing anything about it, one person just has the image recorded.

      • OP again, as a 5’5″ female, pushing through a crowd of 30-40 people surrounding the fight to stop it didn’t seem remotely possible. I also think the other posters don’t understand how truly large and volatile the situation was.

    • But the evidence was created, and if it ends up on social media it will likely be found. I don’t really care if the person is laughing or what their original intentions are as long as someone is calling the cops I am grateful for as many different angles and perspectives caught on cameras as possible. I would be more upset if people were observing/laughing and NOT creating evidence.

      • HaileUnlikely

        I think it is fair to be both disgusted by somebody’s actions and grateful for an unintended benefit from those same actions.

    • Hmmm. It’s unfortunate that folks were laughing and not taking the event seriously. But I hope the actual footage makes its way to law enforcement nonetheless.

    • Could have mentioned that originally. Still don’t see filming as a net negative. Maybe “I was disgusted by the patrons egging the fight on,” more so than “I was disgusted someone would film a fight.”

    • The appropriate reaction is always WORLD STARRRRR!

  • I was the friend with OP who called 911. None of the friends of the brawlers were trying to stop the fight, and yes, they were filming it for their own delightful amusement and cheering. We speculated that the brawl was a ruse to try to get out of paying but have no proof of that. What was even more sad was that these appeared to be Howard students enjoying a night out, our waiter said that he was told the fight was between girls from two different sororities . It was really no excuse for the one girl who was throwing glasses on the ground repeatedly shattering them and the destruction of property.

    The police did come but they contained everything to outside on U street, they never came in the restaurant. 20 minutes after the fight had ended inside, we heard that the police were still outside dealing with people. They never came in to ask for statements.

  • This post is misleading. The staff response was horribly inadequate; I felt extremely unsafe and never will return to El Rey. We asked a person behind the bar (who seemed like a manager) why the police had not been called, when not one staffer intervened or even was present during 20+ minutes of multiple fights (which had turned the back room into violent chaos). Their response? “Why don’t you call them?”

    After I requested our check and was waiting for it, two of the women who had been fighting knocked me aside and started screaming at that same staffer about wanting THEIR checks. They were serviced, while we waited at least another 15 minutes before getting ours. That’s a helluva long time to wait, when all you’re trying do is remove yourself from an increasingly volatile situation. I was preparing for someone to pull out a gun. This place is not safe and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if, ultimately, they lose their liquor license.

    • A. I’d let the crazy people get their checks first. B. I think you would have been justified in either leaving random cash or telling your server you’d return to pay later and just leave.

      • Yes! First thing to do in a situation like this is get yourself as far away from it as possible, as fast as possible. You can come back later and pay your check, the next day even. The restaurant/establishment will understand.

    • I’m not surprised. This place sucks in many ways.

  • ooooh El Rey, when putting a bar inside shipping containers was still a thing

  • They were all reptilians. At least some of them were. Well, reptilians are out there, that’s for sure.

  • Regardless of “only asking out of curiosity,” why does it matter? Even going there, and prefacing your question with “not trying to be racist, but” makes it racial. No need to take it there at all.

  • So has anyone found a video of the fight? I’d need to really watch the video to be able to judge. Link?

  • justinbc

    What a tease, I was expecting some fight videos!

  • Walked through the aftermath of this last night. A half hour after the brawl, a large number of those involved were still hysterically lashing out- Yelling threats, crying, punching walls, being restrained by friends, uncooperative with responding officers, etc. The total lack of impulse control and civility was a sad display. And these were not the usual feral teens; they were all very well-dressed 20-somethings, with Howard apparel and designer clothes.

    MPD should have just loaded up the paddy wagon on the scene.

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