Hundreds gathered in Downtown Binghamton on Saturday to protest outside of Dos Rios Cantina and The Colonial on Court Street after allegations of sexual assault against the owners of the restaurants.
The event, titled “Downtown Shutdown,” was started on Facebook and was shared in “Binghamton Believes Survivors of Sexual Assault,” a group created for members of the community to share their experiences at the restaurants, including instances of alleged sexual assault and drugging and a call for a boycott of the establishments.
Allegations against owners of Dos Rios Cantina, The Colonial and The Stone Fox surfaced online on Wednesday. The restaurants originally announced in a since-deleted Facebook post that they would be closed while an internal investigation was conducted. On Friday, The Colonial made another post explaining their decision to reopen for Friday night, which has also been deleted.
Jackie Timm, a senior majoring in human development and a former employee at The Colonial who attended the protest, said she chose to quit after the allegations surfaced.
“On Friday, [The Colonial] announced they were gonna shut down and then they were like, ‘Never mind, we’re reopening up,’ and they started calling the claims frivolous and baseless,” Timm said. “They were acting like they were all just rumors and a lot of employees got really upset. They said they were going to shut down and still pay us but we ended up just quitting anyway once they announced they were going to open back up. None of us want to work for them after that.”
Katharine Mayer, a junior majoring in business administration and a former employee at The Stone Fox, said she also decided to quit after hearing about the allegations.
“The managers at The Colonial were calling the claims rumors and they were telling their workers that they were untrue,” Mayer said. “Our group chat [at The Stone Fox] wasn’t that communicative. One of the owners did speak out about it. Everyone just started quitting, especially since we’re all connected, we felt very disrespected that they were calling them rumors and they were saying they’re untrue, especially after [multiple people] spoke out and they’re still calling them rumors. And they tried to reopen The Colonial last night, which is absurd. They didn’t actually open. It’s dangerous for their workers, too. How dare they have people go in?”
Protestors gathered at 8:15 p.m. in front of Dos Rios Cantina and marched through Downtown Binghamton. They began their march at Court Street, proceeded in a loop down State Street and Hawley Street and ended at XTASY Restaurant & Lounge on Court Street before heading back to the front of Dos Rios Cantina and The Colonial to gather and listen to members of the crowd share their stories.
An organizer of the protest, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke as people gathered at the beginning of the event, letting survivors know that they had support from the community and the importance of organizing in Binghamton.
“The only reason they shut their shit down is because of community pressure,” she said. “How many times did they say they were gonna reopen? They understand that people have power. When we organize, we have power. When we come together, we have power. We’re here to uplift survivors. We’re here to tell them that they’re not alone. We’re here to let them know we will fight with them. We’re here to let them know that we got their back. We’re here to let them know that they are not alone in this.”
When the group passed by XTASY Restaurant & Lounge, some people entered the establishment and continued chanting inside. Afterward, marchers left and continued their march back to Court Street.
During the march, protestors chanted slogans such as “Whose streets? Our streets,” “Who shut shit down? We shut shit down” and “Who keep us safe? We keep us safe.” People also carried signs, with some saying, “Protect survivors not rapists” and “End rape culture.”
Sarah Tartell, a sophomore majoring in biology who held a sign that said “Fuck the patriarchy” at the protest, said she wanted to emphasize the importance of believing victims.
“I thought it was really important to stand in solidarity with all the victims who were affected by this awful, awful thing,” Tartell said. “It’s horrendous. I think in recent years it’s important to do anything we can to move this movement forward and fight and support victims.”
Chloe Levine, a senior majoring in linguistics, said she felt it was important for students to remember that they are a part of the Binghamton community and engage in local organizing.
“I think that it’s really important to be here because these are big establishments in Downtown Binghamton that a lot of students frequent,” Levine said. “They’re a really big part of the Binghamton community as a whole and the fact that this behavior has been going in here for years unchecked is disgusting. I’m glad that people can come together like this to do something about it.”
“Downtown Shutdown” ended with an hourlong speak-out where people shared their own stories of rape, sexual assault, misconduct and harassment along with former employees of Dos Rios Cantina, The Colonial and The Stone Fox who spoke on the work atmospheres of the restaurants. An organizer of the event spoke at the beginning, encouraging community members to continue boycotting these establishments.
The organizer then spoke on the importance of believing the stories of victims of sexual assault and community organizing.
“We don’t need a fucking video to believe that somebody has been violated,” she said. “We don’t have to be there to believe that somebody’s been violated. When somebody tells you they’ve been violated you should just believe we have to act. We have to stop asking questions. Nobody deserves to be violated in any circumstances.”
If you or someone you know is the victim of sexual assault, harassment or anything related, the Crime Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) or the Violence, Abuse and Rape Crisis Center (VARCC) are available resources. CVAC is located at 377 Robinson St. in Binghamton and can be reached by phone at (607) 722-4256 for a 24/7 crisis support line or by text at (607) 725-8196. CVAC services are also available at the VARCC office, which is located on the third floor of Old Johnson Hall and can be reached by phone at (607) 777-3010.
Pipe Dream was in contact with sexual assault survivors who opted not to share their story with the media out of a concern for their safety. Those interested in sharing their experiences can contact email@example.com.