Two local businesses decided to close their doors for a day in reaction to white supremacist Richard Spencer’s speech at Michigan State University.
The Carpathia Club in Sterling Heights says it got a call from Attorney Kyle Bristow. He wanted to book a meeting on Sunday at the club for about 100 people.
“It was a law firm having a meet and greet. I didn’t think anything negative about it,” said Carsten Grotioh of the Carpathian Club. “Then Sterling Heights Police came in and asked to speak to management. They told me they heard there was going to be a Neo-Nazi gathering here on Sunday.”
Grotioh learned that Bristow had represented Spencer as a lawyer, and the meeting was supposed to include Spencer’s supporters. He didn’t just cancel the reservation. He closed his business for the day.
The owner of the Tipsy McStagger Pub in Warren says he had a similar experience. He got a call from Bristow’s Foundation for the Market Place of Ideas. He was told the organization wanted to host a networking meeting on Monday. When someone came into his business and informed him the networking involved people who supported a white nationalist, he says he was disgusted.
“I said absolutely not are they coming to our bar. I mean, we are a neighborhood bar. I have been in this community 50 years. I retired from the Warren Police Department. I have seen enough hate. Our bar is what it is. It is a neighborhood bar. Everyone is welcome,” said John Vostoris, the owner of Tipsy McStagger Pub.
Vostoris also decided to close his business to avoid any gathering there by people who planned to attend the event.
The Anti Defamation League says standing up to hate, while not infringing on free speech is exactly what everyone needs to do.
“It is not something we want to see in our state,” said Heidi Budaj, the ADL’s Michigan Regional Director.
She says the fear is hate speech leads to action. Nationwide there was a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017. Here in Michigan a 13% increase overall.
“We want our state to be known as a welcoming place that embraces diversity. A place where we stand up against hate,” said Budaj.
WXYZ reached out to the leader of the Foundation for the Market Place and asked if they rescheduled their meeting. Bristow said he suddenly resigned from the group because of the media’s vilification of him and his message.