Last month, a diner at Dallas BBQ in Chelsea was hit over the head with a wooden chair in an alleged bias attack that was captured on video and spread all over the Internet. The chair beat-down was the culmination of a brawl between Jonathan Snipes, his boyfriend Ethan York-Adams and 41-year-old suspect Bayna El-Amin on Cinco de Mayo. The victims called it a gay-bashing and said the chair-wielder called them "white f-----s," but El-Amin, who is gay himself, now says he has been unfairly lampooned in the press: "He assaulted me. I was the victim. People don’t realize that. People don’t know that," El-Amin told G-List Society.
El-Amin, who is described as an "HIV/AIDS counselor and ballroom community leader" and is currently wanted by police, offered a very different story about what happened at the restaurant from Snipes and York-Adams. The two men said that they had accidentally knocked over a drink as they were leaving the restaurant, which led to a verbal confrontation with another table, which then became physical. "A table near us audibly started making pretty gross comments about the two of us like, 'White f----ts, spilling drinks,'" Snipes told DNAInfo. "I don't let anyone talk to me like that. I went over there and asked, 'What did you say about us?'" You can see video of the subsequent fight below.
In El-Amin's description of the incident given to G-List (it's worth noting that writer Waddie Grant Jr. has been aggressively pro El-Amin, and anti-"racist gay media," prior to actually speaking to him), it all sounds like a weird misunderstanding that was provoked by Snipes and York-Adams's behavior: El-Amin says that the two men were fighting close to his table (he says they didn't spill any water)., where he was sitting with several women, and he shouted, "‘Hey, guys! There are ladies here.’ I said it in a tone that was authoritative…to get their attention. However, they continued."
Moments later, it appeared that Mr. Snipes was going to leave the restaurant. But, by standing at the door, he directed his attention toward me, walked towards me and said, ‘And YOU calling us ladies!’ And, he struck me. He struck me in the head with an object. I’m not sure what it was, but it felt like a heavy blunt object — and it hurt.
I was shocked. I was confused. I had no idea why I’ve been hit. I didn’t know if I was going to be hit again. I was in pain. I knew that I needed to react quickly because I was afraid that if I didn’t that I would be hit again. Or, someone else at my table would have been hit. So, I immediately went at him. I got up toward him, and that’s where you see the video started.
... I was sitting at my table. With no provocation, he came up and hit me. There was no slur thrown at him. There was no bumping into my table and knocking over my drinks. There was no interaction between us in a sense, except for what I said earlier when I said to them, ‘Hey, guys! There are ladies here.’ Then, he came over to me and said, ‘And YOU calling up ladies.’ Then, POW!
He definitely made false accusations and tried to put a crime on my that did not happen. I defended myself.
As for the matter of the graphic chair bash, El-Amin (a former "security professional") says he was just defending himself. "I didn’t know if [Snipes] had a weapon or not, or [that Snipes’ companion] was going to join in. I didn’t know if we were going to be hurt. I didn’t know if the people at my table were going to be hurt. It could have been worse. So, my reactions were more out of fear...My only thought was to facilitate an exit that they would not follow behind us because there was no one there to stop them from doing so - or pull a weapon out on us. There was a chair that’s closest thing to me. That’s why I threw it. I didn’t look at as a way to mane (sic) him or use as a deadly force.”
El-Amin denies he ever called the two men "white fa***ts," he says he suffered a head injury in the fight, he says he's been vilified in the press, and that he's had to leave his home after receiving death threats. He's especially upset at his treatment by the gay community and by certain local councilmembers:
I’m also disappointed in the community, in particular certain members of the LGBT community, who have not done their due diligence to make sure that if someone is saying this - that what they’re saying is true. In particular, that [openly-gay] Councilman [Corey Johnson] in that area who said so many horrible things about me to his constituents. I don’t understand why he would call me a homophobe.”
Police have offered a different portrait of El-Amin: they have described him as a "career criminal" with 18 arrests in several states for charges including assault, shoplifting, drug possession, credit-card fraud, drug possession, forgery, and possession of stolen property. He remains in hiding.