Protest staged against owner of downtown Nanaimo cafe

Aladdin’s Cafe scene of small protest after owner receives “weak” sentence for sexual interference

A small group of people lined the edge of the sidewalk on Victoria Crescent Thursday, bearing signs that slammed the owner of Aladdin’s Cafe.

Members of the group were speaking out against Talal El Bakkar, Aladdin’s Cafe owner, and what they say was a weak sentence of three months, to be served in prison on weekends, with three year’s probation.

The sentence was handed down by Judge Douglas Cowling, in provincial court in Nanaimo, Nov. 9, when El Bakkar pleaded guilty to sexual interference with a person under 16.

“We’re protesting because we feel that we want a stronger sentence for the crimes that were committed and we also do not like the fact that the restaurant is still being run…” said Amy Savage, one of the protesters.

RELATED: Nanaimo restaurant owner sentenced for sexual interference

Savage went on to say the protest was staged in hopes of gaining media attention and to foster public discussion.

“I worry that the community is very angry with what’s been going on and there have been rocks thrown and graffiti and I don’t think that is the correct way to go about handling it,” Savage said. “But I unfortunately worry that the community’s still angry and that it’s going to escalate and I feel that something that could help de-escalate what’s going on is to potentially shut down the restaurant.”

The restaurant has been the scene of protests and vandalism in recent weeks. The cafe’s front windows were smashed sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday, but was open Thursday afternoon with several customers patronizing the cafe during the protest.

“Look what they do to my windows … My family’s the one that built, pays taxes, creates jobs,” El Bakkar said. “They’re all a bunch of welfare cases, you know. All my customers support me. They know who I am. I know who I am. I come from a good family.”

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said he was not aware if a complaint about the property damage had been filed with police, but if one had, it will be investigated.

“That’s unacceptable,” O’Brien said. “The courts have decreed their decision and whether people choose to accept it or not, vandalism to property is unacceptable and if the incident’s been reported we’ll certainly investigate it and hold those people accountable.”



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
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