Sequim police investigating alleged hate crime in downtown

Sequim police are investigating alleged malicious harassment, or hate crime, against Sequim business owners involving weapons and racial slurs last Saturday night.

The clash — which apparently began as a parking space dispute — has prompted a protest, the Juneteenth Protest Against Racism and Hate.

It is planned at 6 p.m. Saturday at Centennial Place at the corner of Washington Street and Sequim Avenue.

“This kicked it (the protest) off,” said Courtney Thomas, founder of Sequim Protests Against Racism, Etc., (SPARE).

In light of what has been described to her about the confrontation, “we decided we really couldn’t let that holiday pass without doing something,” she said Thursday.

Little official information about what happened is available while there are numerous posts on social media.

Sequim Police received a 9-1-1 call at 7:58 p.m. Saturday to South Second Avenue for a disturbance in the alley between multiple businesses, including Blondie’s Plate on Second Avenue, Sequim Kabob House on Washington Street, police said.

The Sequim Police Department is “taking the incident very seriously and following every lead,” Detective Sgt. Darrell Nelson said Tuesday.

Since the case remains under investigation, he declined to provide further details until a report is made to the Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Sequim Police Chief Sheri Crain reaffirmed Nelson’s comments in a Wednesday phone call.

Online posts

Adam Awawda, the son of the Sequim Kabob House’s owners Jim and Amalia Awawda, wrote online — without naming his parents — that his mother was blocked in the alley parking lot behind Washington Street by an unnamed employee of Blondie’s Plate who had parked behind her. The employee “started laughing at her and making fun of her while watching her attempt to back out of the parking lot.”

Due to the tight space, Adam Awawda said his mother had to climb through the passenger door as the employee “got her friends to come outside and watch as if it was a funny joke (and point and laugh).”

He said his father asked the employees to move the vehicle. They went inside and another unnamed employee came out with a camera behind him.

He wrote that the man “turned it into a screaming match” and “then pulled a knife on me and my dad and pointed it at us telling us to get off the property.”

He said the man allegedly began calling them “immigrants,” “telling us we’re in America now so we have to ‘follow his words,’” and “get out of his country and come back when we are citizens (which we are).”

He added that the man allegedly made fun of his father’s accent, told him to speak English, and uttered more racial comments.

Jim and Amalia Awawda declined to comment for this story. Adam Awawda confirmed the social media post was his.

Business owner

Blondie’s Plate owner Josh Armstrong wrote a statement on the business’ Facebook page on Tuesday afternoon.

“Due to the overwhelming negativity from the incident this weekend, and as the Owner of Blondie’s, I feel that we must apologize to the community at large for any inappropriate actions that our employees participated in,” he wrote, adding that he was disturbed by the event.

Armstrong wrote that he was not present for any of the situation as he was on the business’ patio by himself and didn’t take notice until three police cars pulled into the alley.

His view is that the Awawdas’ vehicle was parked illegally in his business’ private parking lot.

One of his unnamed staffers parked close to the car, causing the Awawdas to become stuck, Armstrong said.

In response to Adam Awawda’s statement that someone was laughing at his parents, Armstrong said the act was inappropriate but he’s unsure who was doing it.

He said an unnamed employee from a neighboring business attempted to help Adam Awawda’s mother back up her vehicle and that, at that time, a white van pulled up “and a large man jumped out waving a (3-foot) iron pipe at one of the Blondie’s staff who had walked outside.”

Armstrong said the man “was threatening to enter Blondie’s and cause destruction.”

An unnamed man whom Armstrong said does not work for Blondie’s or his construction company (Olympic Coast Construction) went to help, wearing one of the construction company’s shirts.

“He asked repeatedly for the man to please drop the weapon as it was inappropriate to handle the situation with an iron pipe,” Armstrong wrote, and “there was an argument between them that contained violent threats … police arrived and saw the two men screaming at each other and the situation was quickly dispelled.”

Armstrong also wrote that a crowd gathered afterward and that the two men “yelling at each other had absolutely nothing to do with Blondie’s nor myself (Just two puffed up egos).”

Armstrong did not mention a knife.

Saturday’s rally

Thomas said Saturday’s rally may have speakers, although none were formally scheduled as of Thursday, and that some of those who gather downtown plan to march to Blondie’s.

Although the protest was prompted by Saturday’s incident, it “is not only about Blondie’s but about everything as a whole,” she said, mentioning recent city council actions and national issues.

Thomas also said she and others are urging people to boycott Blondie’s Plate through a hashtag.

“The best thing we can do is vote with our dollar,” she said.

“It’s not just him. It’s all the people involved,” she added.

Although Armstrong was on the premises, he didn’t act, she pointed out.

“The fact that he didn’t do anything about it makes him just as responsible,” Thomas said.

In his online post, Armstrong added that he is “highly disappointed in everyone involved on all sides of this event.

“I have voiced great displeasure to any of the people involved on the Blondie’s side of things,” he said. “We need to be less hostile in this world.”

He also said he is a “Republican however that does not make me racist. I have spent the last couple days roofing with one of my young friends from Sudan while receiving hate mail. My daughter is friends with one of the sons of the kabob house. … it’s a small town. I apologize for any of my employees actions and wish to make amends with the family involved. All this over a parking issue. Stupid!”