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Florida Indian charged with racism

Source: PTI
Last updated on: June 02, 2004 18:53 IST
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An Indian motel owner in a small American town discriminated against Black customers by placing them in inferior rooms and preventing them from using the swimming pool, Florida's Attorney General Charlie Crist charged in a civil rights lawsuit.

The Florida inn owned by Raj Patel in Perry had "markedly less desirable, more poorly maintained and more unattractive" rooms for Blacks compared to rooms reserved for White customers, Crist told a court in Tallahassee.

The investigation began after a family reported last summer that Patel told them "coloureds were not allowed in the pool".

Crist's office has since found another family that complained about the motel during a 1999 stay. Investigators talked to former employees, who said Patel would become angry if they put Black guests in rooms meant for Whites.

The case first surfaced in October 2003 when Crist said a South Florida man, Dwayne Parker, had complained to him that he was kicked out of a motel swimming pool in July because "coloureds are not allowed in the pool."

The lawsuit alleges that Patel would pour cleansing

chemicals in the pool immediately after black guests used it, and that he once did so when two black children were still in it. It also said Patel's wife had once charged black guests $5 each to use the pool, but Patel ``raged'' at the guests to get out.

Patel said then that he was shocked by the allegation. "I don't discriminate against anyone," said Patel, who immigrated to the US from India in 1989.

Patel's words, said local media, echo those of the former owner of the Perry Package store, who lost his liquor licence after a Black man, who happened to be a lawmaker in Maryland State, complained that he was denied service in 2001.

Although Parker was a registered guest, according to local media, the children swimming with him and their parents were not, and Patel said he could not risk letting local kids swim in the pool. "I told them nicely and they left the pool," Patel said.

Crist said it was then that "I decided it was time to issue the subpoena and find out what was going on."

If found liable, Patel could face fines up to $10,000 for each incident of discrimination.

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