COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Friday afternoon, a community activist demanded Columbia City Council take action against the owner of Capitol Liquors on Harden Street.
Shaterica Neal, who also serves on the Gray Court Town Council in the Upstate, claims Youssef Al Ammouri, the owner of the liquor store, assaulted and harassed her using racial slurs during an incident at the store on June 23. Officers arrested Al Ammouri on June 26 on charges of hate intimidation and third-degree assault and battery.
During Friday’s news conference, Neal called the attack horrific and traumatizing. She said the arrest is a step in the right direction, but that more needs to be done.
Now, she’s calling for Al Ammouri’s business and liquor licenses for Capitol Liquors to be revoked.
“He should not be allowed to continue to do such heinous acts. The revocation of licenses would ensure the safety of the community members who have been terrorized by Youssef Al Ammouri,” Neal said.
Neal said she was giving a box of pizza to a homeless man near the store on June 23 when Al Ammouri came out and began harassing her. She recorded part of the attack and shared it on social media, sparking protests and an economic boycott outside the store for the last 10 days.
“We will continue if he is allowed to continue benefiting economically from the devaluing and disrespecting of black folks who frequent these businesses,” Neal said.
Neal said she’s not the only one who has faced attacks from Al Ammouri.
Zakiya Esper, who has been boycotting since Neal was attacked on June 23, said that other women in the neighborhood surrounding the store have voiced similar situations.
“As I’ve given people rides up and down this street for the past week, I’ve heard story after story of black women who frequent this business because they don’t have a choice and how he’s been abusive for years,” Esper said.
Neal said that she filed a complaint against Capitol Liquor with the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation on Thursday.
However, she said she would also like Columbia City Council to address what she calls “a food desert” in the Waverly Place community. She said many residents are now forced to shop at the convenience store right next door to Capitol Liquors, which she said doesn’t provide fresh produce.
“This is the only convenient store within walking distance,” Neal said.
A grocery store that used to be open across the street closed in August 2019.
“I am from this area, and I have seen Save-a-Lot be closed and what that means to this community to lose their one source of good healthy food, and when you are only resorting to a racist man and a racist establishment, if that’s the only place you have, that is wrong. That’s injustice,” Jazmyne McCraw, an EmpowerSC leader, said.
WIS asked Mayor Benjamin about Neal’s demands for city leaders. He said because the city doesn’t issue liquor licenses, the city cannot revoke them.
Here’s a look at the city’s Business Licensing Ordinance regarding the suspension or revocation of license.
Mayor Benjamin also added some other points of clarification saying further the liquor store is located in is the Edgewood community, not the Waverly community and this area does not meet the official definition of a food desert because of its proximity to other stores like the Food Lion on Harden Street and programs through the COMET bus system to provide transportation.
Mayor Benjamin stressed that the Edgewood community will remain a priority to the City of Columbia, saying that priority is seen through the new library, affordable senior housing, as well as other projects the city has invested in in the area.