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Suit: Racine leaders targeted minority bar owners (UPDATE)

By: Eric Heisig//February 26, 2014//

Suit: Racine leaders targeted minority bar owners (UPDATE)

By: Eric Heisig//February 26, 2014//

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Eight people who once owned bars in Racine have filed a civil rights lawsuit accusing the mayor and other city officials of discriminating against them and forcing their businesses to close.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in the Eastern District of Wisconsin against Mayor John Dickert, the city of Racine, its police and others. It accuses top city officials of preventing minority bar owners from acquiring or renewing their liquor licenses.

It also accuses Dickert of accepting illegal financial contributions from the local tavern league and rewarding the league’s white members with the newly surrendered liquor licenses or high-level city positions.

“The defendants’ scheme to eliminate minority-owned bars is also motivated by simple racism – specifically, a desire to ‘rehabilitate’ and ‘clean up’ the downtown area which, in the defendants’ minds, requires fewer or no minority-owned establishments and their minority patrons,” the suit reads.

The plaintiffs are black, Hispanic and Thai. They are asking for an unnamed amount of damages.

The case is assigned to Judge J.P. Stadtmueller.

The complaint details several instances where white bar owners were shown leniency in the face of troubles or altercations. The same leniency was not shown to bars owned by minorities, according to the complaint.

It also states that “the conspiracy to rid downtown Racine of minority-owned bars is ongoing.”

Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney issued a statement saying the city denies it illegally discriminated against any person or business. Letteney said the city has not been served with the complaint.

The Associated Press also contributed to this report.


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