Protests were held at JP23 in Downtown Fullerton on Aug. 28 at 7 p.m., centered around assault and sexual assault claims that were said to have been linked to the restaurant and bar. Protests have been held every weekend of August and gather support through social media posts.
“Shut down JP23!” and “Shut it down!” were chanted in front of the restaurant and bar as protesters held up signs and passed out flyers.
Samantha Velasquez is one of the most recent survivors to come forward and share her story of sexual assault that occurred after a night at JP23 with the media and the Fullerton Police Department. Since then, others have come forward to share their story on social media and in Fullerton City Council meetings, dating back as far as 2016. Many of the claims involved being drugged and assaulted sexually or physically after having a drink at JP23.
Pasadena City College student and JP23 protester Dustin Wilk had a similar experience after having a drink at the establishment.
“I went off with a group and they provided me a drink, which I agreed to in a naive fashion. After walking to their car in the parking lot, I lost all my memory. I only had one drink, it doesn’t add up.” said Wilk.
Wilk hazily remembered sometime after that being struck with a baseball bat in the neck. The next thing they remember is being woken up by police in the street with their jaw broken in three locations.“I woke up in a place I had no expectation of being at,” said Wilk.
Wilk filed an official police report two days later. According to Wilk, Fullerton police asked them several times if they were sure they hadn’t just fallen and described their attitude towards the investigation as “lackadaisical,” despite having photo evidence of their injuries. Wilk now has ongoing pain in their jaw and describes the mental impact of the assault as similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Protester and co-organizer Abel De Santiago also attended the protest on Aug. 28.
“It’s community members that are reacting to the recent sexual assault of Samantha Velasquez… and after she came out with her story, other survivors, over 40 now, with similar stories have come out against JP23,” said De Santiago.
JP23 protesters are community members demanding justice for survivors, and their call to action is to shut down the restaurant and bar to keep the community safe.
According to De Santiago, JP23 and those who support the restaurant and bar have held counter-protests on some of the nights they had protested previously, a few feet away from their demonstration. De Santiago described the counter-protests as intimidating and said others do not feel safe protesting as a result.
Some JP23 protesters shared they have been followed to their cars after the protests by individuals wearing JP23 shirts. Velasquez and her mother also shared that experience after protesting, as mentioned in the Fullerton City Council meeting on Aug 17.
“It has been a key tactic of JP23 to use intimidation to try to shut these protests down,” said De Santiago.
Protesters are hopeful in reaching their goal of having the business lose its license to operate and for the Fullerton Police Department to find those responsible for the assaults.
JP23 management declined to comment when asked about the protests.
For resources and assistance from sexual assault, call the National Sexual Assault hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit their website.
EDIT: This article was edited on 8/30/2021. A section of a quote was removed that insinuated JP23 committed an assault. An attribution was added to a claim about the Fullerton Police Department being “lacksidasical” around an investigation. An edit involving an individual’s gender was also corrected.