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LEFT FIELD Johnny Racist lthough the interior designer at Johnny Rockets tastefully left out he “Whites Only” signs, the fifties retro diner resembles the old Wool worth’s lunch counters in more than just decor. That’s what six Hispanic patrons discovered in late July, when they were refused service by the restaurant at the upscale Barton Creek Mall in west Austin. After watching several white patrons be seated just before closing time, the group was told by the host that the cafe was No room at Johnny Rockets: Cathy Rodriguez and Amelia Moraida Jana Birelium closed, only to observe another group of white customers get seated a few minutes later. When they inquired again, they say, the host was openly hostile, and they gave up. According to the historical script, the six should have returned the next day for a sit-in, whereupon they would be set upon by rabid teenagers with crew cuts. But in a hard-working microchip town like Austin, who has time to have mayonnaise clumped on their heads? The group contacted Austin civil rights lawyer Jim Harrington, who filed a lawsuit against the restaurant in mid-September. It was the second of a series of suits Harrington’s organization, the Texas Civil Rights Project, intends to file over public accommodations discrim ination in its “Equality Under the Law Campaign.” \(The first was filed against a What Harrington didn’t count State Trooper and Barton Creek Mall Guard instructs Left Field in the meaning of the First Amendment. on was Nancy Hedrick, the general manager for Barton Creek Mall. Hedrick played a big-haired, red lipsticked Bull Connor, busting up a press conference In front of the mall entrance and having Harrington arrested for trespassing. \(Harrington told Left Field he located two poIn a subsequent visit to the mall, Left Field found Hedrick in her mall office hunker, where she confirmed she had Ilarrington arrested, despite a permanent injunction Harrington obtained from a district court against the mall in the eighties, which recognized that a shopping mall is a “quasi-public” place where First Amendment rights of expression and assembly must be respected. Hedrick later treated Left Field to the same bum’s rush, tipping the mall’s considerable contingent of off-duty state trooper security guards to our planned lunch date and photo shoot with two of the plaintiffs, which began in front of the caf, quickly proceeded to the parking lot, and ended with our photographer’s license plate posted on the mall cops’ troublemaker list. Harrington has filed lawsuits against Barton Creek Mall and the City of Austin for violating his civil rights, as well as false arrest and imprisonment. According to Bill Groux, Vice President of Marketing at ,Johnny Rockets corporate headquarters in Irvine, California, the company has a “zero tolerance policy towards discrimination” and has “launched an investigation” into the incident. And Left Field is looking for another location to do our Christmas shopping. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5 OCTOBER 15, 1999