The Story of the Waterbury Big Apple Hotel
By Timothy C. Moynahan
Rumor, gossip and a malicious lie nearly destroyed a Waterbury building and all but crushed the lives of people who were living the American Dream.
Is a protest legitimate if it is based on a lie? If it develops into mob action, damaging property and lives?
A mob took control of an otherwise peaceful assembly – a street protest based on false accusations against the proprietor of the Apple Hotel, his family and his agents.
The lie: a young Black girl had been kidnapped, taken to the Apple Hotel and harmed for days. It didn’t happen. The girl was not harmed and not kidnapped, as was posted in the Internet a week before the rioters commenced a savage confrontation, disregarding the truth. The girl accused no one.
We are confident the police will do an exhaustive investigation and will arrest those responsible for the tens of thousands of dollars of damage to the hotel.
The alarming conduct calls for community action, not just police action. The Board of Alderman should provide a forum where citizens can ask questions and voice concerns, for leaders from every sector to register their condemnation of lawlessness, for civic and religious proponents of the brotherhood of man to object to the ransacking of a Muslim-American’s dream. Would the protest have turned into a destructive mob if the hotel owners were not Muslim-American?
What triggered the unquestioned acceptance of a reckless rumor and seemingly deliberate lie? What lessons are provided here and what can we do to turn it into a teaching moment?
First, we must acknowledge that what was done to decent citizens also has been done to us. This incident should serve as an example for all of us – get the facts before you wave a sign. Learn the truth before you march.
The horde brandished signs, “F…the Waterbury police,” and, “Sex trafficking here,” and “Burn down the Big Apple.” They wrote on the windows, then shattered them. They invaded the lobby and destroyed a television and furniture. They spit on, cursed and terrorized staff. They clambered to the roof to smash and tear down the neon signs.
As attorney for the victims, I want the perpetrators to know that we will track them down. Justice is the only way for the victims – and the community – to heal.
The owners of the Apple Hotel are Pakistani Muslim immigrants who came to America to pursue the American dream. Despite the attacks on their property, reputations and character, their belief in the essential goodness of their neighbors and the American people remains undiminished.
In (YEAR), they became proud owners of the Big Apple Hotel at 428 West Main Street. The business thrived. It is a hospitable haven for guests, a safe residence and an asset to the community. Contrary to erroneous reports circulated by the rioters, the hotel has not been a den of iniquity.
In fact, the proprietors tried to reduce crime in the neighborhood, essentially becoming a set of eyes and ears for law enforcement. Crimes were committed in the neighborhood – not in the hotel. Hotel personnel called police to report criminal activity. Perhaps that is why police reports note many calls came from the hotel. The owner and employees of the Big Apple really did help take a big bite out of neighborhood crime.
The hotel has been a refuge for those in need. During the devastating storm in Puerto Rico, FEMA relied on the owners of the hotel to house a beleaguered population. Churches and other charitable organizations relied on the hotel to shelter those adversely affected by events beyond their control. The readiness to offer assistance has been the hallmark of the hotel’s operation. The owner and his family have been a credit to our city and deserve our appreciation and unmitigated support.
Questions remain. We want to know the motivation for the petition titled ‘Crush the Apple,’ organized by Ronae Mason Craig. How were over 200 signatures collected at the beginning of the riot under false pretenses? When did Ronae know the allegations were false?
Why did she and others persist in their attacks and defamatory conduct when they knew the allegations were false. She was quoted saying, “the hotel is a place where, drugs, sexual assaults and other illegal activity have frequently occurred.” False, hyperbolic and incendiary. Will she recant? Apologize?
The hotel owner and his family are committed to turning this tragedy into triumph. They have been temporarily hobbled, but they remain possessed of undiminished pride in their status as hard-working middle-class Americans.
We are obliged to stand for them and with them, to come forward resolutely to oppose those who created chaos with malicious intent.
Atty. Timothy C. Moynahan is CEO of Moynahan Partners, a development consultancy. He heads the Moynahan Law Firm, Waterbury, and can be reached at (203) 597-6364. He represents the owner of Big Apple Hotel.