A man became enraged at a New York deli after apparently overhearing employees speaking Spanish — and threatened to call immigration authorities in a lengthy rant captured on video.
The incident, first reported by Latino Rebels, occurred Tuesday at the Fresh Kitchen in midtown Manhattan, according to video posted to social media by a man who said his wife was present at the time.
In the video, a tall dark-haired man wearing a white button-down shirt and gray slacks looks indignant as he confronts a bespectacled employee at the fast-casual restaurant and deli.
“Your staff is speaking Spanish to customers when they should be speaking English,” the man says, his brow furrowing.
As the restaurant worker tries to explain, the angry man interrupts him.
“Every person I listen to: He spoke it, he spoke it, she’s speaking it,” the man declares, turning around and pointing at various people in the restaurant. “This is America!”
At this point, a few bystanders interject, apparently outraged at the man: “Yeah, it is America!” one woman shoots back. A few people laugh. Someone else off camera can be heard cursing about how messed up the man’s rant is. Another says with a sigh: “So ignorant.”
On his way out of the restaurant, the man spins and faces the restaurant employee again and accuses him of hiring undocumented workers. The employee stares ahead, stone-faced, occasionally nodding, as the angry man threatens to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“I will be following up,” the man shouts. “My guess is they’re not documented, so my next call is to ICE to have each one of them kicked out of my country. If they have the balls to come here and live off my money — I pay for their welfare. I pay for their ability to be here. The least they can do — the least they can do — is speak English.”
There is more exasperated laughter in the background. A woman begins to confront the man — “Because of people like you, our nation — …!” — when he cuts her off and raises his white iPhone.
“Honey, I’m calling ICE!” he says, glowering.
“Call ICE!” she shoots back.
The exchange ends with a pair of insults in front of a wall of refrigerated beverages.
“Maybe you shouldn’t eat that sandwich today,” the man yells at the woman. “Take a break from the food!”
The woman doesn’t miss a beat: “Maybe you should get hit by a car, you piece of [expletive]!”
The video ends there.
A worker who answered the phone Wednesday at the Fresh Kitchen at Madison Avenue and 39th Street said the manager was not available but confirmed that the incident had taken place at that location the day before.
The manager reportedly was angered by the man’s comments but didn’t want to yell back, according to the New York Daily News.
“He got mad, waiting in line for his food. He stormed out,” the manager told the newspaper. “He’s a customer, so I had to stay professional and ask him to leave. That’s what I did.”
One Fresh Kitchen employee, Oscar Villanueva, told the Daily News that the man “said we have to speak English. He started saying a lot of ugly words. … We felt really bad, humiliated.”
Facebook user Edward Suazo uploaded the video to his account Tuesday and wrote that his wife and her best friend had been chatting in Spanish with a waiter when the angry man jumped in.
“What a big man talking down to couple of women and a helpless employee,” Suazo wrote on Facebook. “I wish someone tells me I can’t speak in my native language! First of all they wasn’t talking to you!!”
By Thursday morning, the video had been viewed more than 4 million times on Facebook and reposted across social media by people eager to identify the ranting customer.
Many named him as a midtown lawyer with an office near the Fresh Kitchen and inundated his online listings with negative reviews. The Washington Post called the lawyer, who did not immediately respond to comment on those reports.
The New York State Bar Association said on Twitter that it was “aware of the situation” but that the attorney in question “is not a current member of our voluntary association. We also do not handle attorney discipline. The court system does.”
Isaac Saul, an editor and columnist at the website A Plus, wrote Wednesday that he recognized the man as someone he had encountered last May at a far-right rally protesting political activist Linda Sarsour’s commencement speech at City University of New York.
Video from the rally taken by Saul, published for the first time Wednesday, showed the man verbally attacking a rabbi who was there and calling him a “fake Jew.” In another video, the same man — who closely resembles the Fresh Kitchen customer — can be seen taunting a group of Jewish people with his middle finger.
The Fresh Kitchen opened in the past couple of months, according to online reviews, and is a fast-casual “sandwich and salad bar kitchen” that serves a variety of international food, including sushi, pho and tacos.
On Wednesday night, the Daily News previewed its front page, which had a message for the angry man. That message was written in Spanish.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article said the deli incident was initially reported by Gothamist. In fact, Latino Rebels reported it and published the video first. This post has been updated.