Sunday, August 9, 2009

Saga of Oak Lawn grocer targeted for racism grows

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An Oak Lawn Grocer alleges he was targeted for racism by a village inspector. The issue involves a two-year long battle between the inspector and the grocer. But it crossed the line when on July 15, the grocer, Naim Massad, and his wife Suzanne and his son Abed, were arrested during a surprise inspection brought on by a call to the village by a neighboring store owner, Pat Bartell who owns the music store just north of Massad's Grocery.

(Bartell is listed in the police report as having made the initial complaint and she is quoted on FOX TV and also now in the Southtown as complaining about Massad's store).

Here are links to my stories so far. And I mean so far because this story continues to get worse as you dig into the allegations from the inspector, Jeanne Foody Galzin, which seem exaggerated to say the least.

What's interesting is the role of the music store owner in all this. Her attorney Pat Sullivan insists she is not anti-Arab or harboring any racist feelings. But in talking to him, he says her store was "damaged" by sanitation problems in Massad's store.

The problem with that is that the Village DID NOT CLOSE Bartell's music store. She closed it on her own. And the problem, Bartell's attorney says, involves sewage, but there is no direct link to Massad's store. Rather than look at the possibility that the building is a problem, Bartell has been pointing a finger of blame directly at Massad, I think unfairly. You can read the note she posted on her door when she closed her own store in my news story above.

It's very possible that water is leaking fromt he roof or someplace into Bartell's store. Why blame him?

Sullivan said there was a "stink" coming from somewhere -- they say Massad's store.

That might be. Massad's store was closed on July 15 by the village and locked up for almost two weeks by the village without access. In fact, Galzin, the village inspector has been showing the media pictures of rotted and outdated food products that Massad says were taken AFTER he was arrested and the village bolted his store shut. he couldn't get in to his store until the village opened it last week, only after I started to ask questions.

And the ridiculous accusation that Massad stored food in an unsanitary condition is really outrageous. I looked at the facts. Here is what I found.

The vacant store is clean and was clean there never were "pots of sewage" stored in that store which is the basis of the complaint.

Nothing was being stored in EXCEPT old clothing that Palestinians have been collecting over the past few months so they can ship them to help the Palestinian refugees living in the Gaza Strip. (Is that a problem I wonder? You say "Gaza" and many uneducated Americans start thinking, Hamas, terrorism, al-Qaeda ... really dumb stereotypes and racist feelings come out with that.)

The delivery truck arrived minutes before the inspector arrived with four police squad cars, called by the music store owner.

The delivery man was unloading the pallets of food when Galzin arrived and insisted that the music store owner said he was operating his business when in fact he was not. When Massad said that was not true, he told the delivery man to put the food in the vacant store -- which was open because the night before the village busted the door down and the windows (now boarded up), Galzin got upset and charged Massad with putting the food in the vacant store and had him arrested on that charge.

The village now claims, falsely, that Massad was arrested (according to the Daily Southtown Story) for:

"repeated and flagrant violation of food safety," according to the July 15 inspection report.

That contradicts the charges in the police report:

Click to read the police report that was filed by Galzin and updated 8 days later after I began asking questions. Even in the update, the arrest report does not make that exaggerated charge.

“At Jeanne Galzin’s request,” the police report details, Massad was handcuffed and charged with the crime of “storing food in an unsanitary condition.”

Is it possible that the "smell" that Martell is talking about which prompted her to close her store before the arrest and just before my story broke August 5, 2009 came from the food being locked in the store by the village between July 15 and July 31 when the store was finally re-opened?

If that's the case, then maybe someone should give the Village of Oak Lawn a citation for violating sanitation conditions because they locked the store and Massad and his family could not enter the store.

In my opinion, a lot of the lies promoted in this story against the Massad family are driven by racism and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment. I can't find any other explanation for it, and the exaggerated claim of sanitation problems blamed on Massad clearly suggest something more.

-- Ray Hanania


Ray said...

In talking with the music store owner recently, I reviewed this and made one change in one of the last paragraphs it says the owner closed her store "long after" it should say "before" the arrest. Thanks for pointing out the error. I like to correct things as soon as I can.

Ray said...

UPDATE: I have asked the music store owner, and her attorney, for her side of the story twice in emails and by telephone conversations with the attorney. They have refused, responding with accusations and their own questions. The attorney was offered the opportunity to even write their own story that we would publish, and they declined. I even offered to interview them to write their story, and they declined again. A request for detailed info was declined by the attorney when he said that he was having some personal issues that took him away from his business, and I said that he could provide the info at any time at a later date. He has not.

The music store owner has issues with Massad's store but they have never provided me with any documentation or facts or a sequence of events that I have asked them for repeatedly.

The music store owner says I have accused her of racism, I have not. I believe that the actions of the village against Mr. Massad are driven by racism.

The music store owner says I misquoted the "sign." I have a photograph of the sign and what it says.

The music store owner says that I have missed the story regarding the sanitation issues, which I have said she may have a story there, but she has refused to provide me with any information to back up her claims that Massad's store caused her sanitation issues. The accusation may be correct but I do not have any documentation from them suggesting it is accurate.

Ray Hanania