New York lawyer in hot water after racist rant goes viral

New York lawyer in hot water after racist rant goes viral

Complaint filed against Aaron Schlossberg after video shows him yelling at restaurant employees for speaking Spanish

Aaron Schlossberg, left. (Twitter)
Aaron Schlossberg, left. (Twitter)

NEW YORK — A lawyer who threatened to call immigration enforcement on restaurant workers who angered him by speaking Spanish has had a complaint filed against him with a disciplinary committee that oversees lawyers in the state.

The lawyer’s brief rant, which was captured on video, prompted two elected officials to send a letter to the disciplinary committee on Thursday. The power of the internet also went to work against him, with a fundraiser started to send a mariachi band to perform outside his office.

The clip of the man yelling in a Manhattan restaurant went viral Wednesday, and he was identified through social media as attorney Aaron Schlossberg. Other videos and accounts of Schlossberg haranguing people have since surfaced.

In the video, Schlossberg said he would be calling Immigration and Customs Enforcement to have the workers “kicked out of my country.” He complained to another restaurant employee that “it’s America” and that in a Manhattan eatery “staff should be speaking English.”

“Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” Schlossberg said. “It’s America … And my guess is, they’re not documented. So my next call is to ICE to have each one of those kicked out of my country.”

The clip quickly sparked outrage among many critics, including U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., who wrote to New York state’s court system, which has a grievance committee for attorney complaints.
Espaillat and Diaz, Democrats, called the video “vile” and said “the audacity to profile and verbally assault innocent bystanders and customers in a public commercial location is a violation of our civil society.”

It was unclear what action the disciplinary committee could take, if any. A message left with the committee was not immediately returned.

Schlossberg also didn’t respond to a call and an email seeking comment. In a video posted by the New York Post, Schlossberg held an umbrella in front of his face as he avoided reporters.

The social media furor turned up more instances of a man who appeared to be Schlossberg getting irate with others. One clip was posted to YouTube in October 2016 by a man who said Schlossberg attempted to shove him on a sidewalk before threatening to call the police.

Another from May 2017 showed him berating a group of ultra-Orthodox protesters from the Neturei Karta sect who were speaking in support of Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour.

Schlossberg’s bio on his website says he focuses on commercial and insurance coverage issues. It says besides English he speaks Spanish, French and some Hebrew and Chinese. During the confrontation with the ultra-Orthodox protesters, he bragged about having traveled to Israel twice.

The company that runs the building Schlossberg uses as his law firm’s address said Thursday that his agreement with it had been terminated because his actions “were contrary” to its rules and regulations.

New York City has a human rights law that protects against discrimination and harassment based on immigration status or national origin. The city’s Commission on Human Rights can investigate potential violations and levy fines.

The commission said it was aware of the Schlossberg matter but wouldn’t comment on whether it was or would be the subject of an investigation.

The city has always been home to multiple languages, and there are anywhere from 600 to 800 languages spoken in the metropolitan region, said Ross Perlin, co-director of the Endangered Language Alliance.

“This is the most linguistically diverse city,” he said, “not only in the world but in the history of the world.”

And if Schlossberg wanted to speak the city’s indigenous language, Perlin said, it wouldn’t be English. He’d have to learn the Native American language of Lenape.

JTA and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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