Detroit artist Aaron Ibn Pori Pitts is known for his sprawling collage tableaux that serve as "maps showing where he's been in life," as an MT profile earlier this year put it. But these days the 65-year-old Pitts, who was this paper's 2006 artist of the year, is part of a real-life daily tableau starting at noon as picketers gather in front of the Epicurus restaurant near the corner of Warren and Cass avenues, urging diners to stay away.
Epicurus is a Wayne State University-area eatery where Pitts, who is African-American, alleges he recently went to use the bathroom and wound up being assaulted by a white restaurant employee. "It was a racist act as far as I'm concerned," Pitts said.
As Pitts tells it, he was told to leave, told that the bathroom was out of service, and when it became obvious that the bathroom was in use as someone else exited it he rushed in to relieve himself. After which, a statement Pitts issued says, the door was jerked open "and I saw this angry man proceeding upon me with fists balled up." After more "hitting," "kicking" and "foul names," Pitts says he was bodily thrown out.
Pitts said that he subsequently filed a report with the Detroit Police, and a Wayne County assistant prosecutor confirmed Monday that office has also interviewed Pitts.
A phone call to Epicurus on Monday got a "no comment." When News Hits visited the restaurant last Wednesday, the day Pitts held a press conference outside, we were first told to "get out right now." Then a woman who identified herself only as "Linda" told us that Pitts "tried to hit my son. We asked him to leave ... then he hit my son. My son tried to defend himself. That's all that happened." After which Linda, obviously distraught, walked away leaving us holding our tape recorder, little reels spinning.
Back outside, Pitts told us, "I didn't raise my hand at all against that man. I was defending myself. I'm outraged now."
Pitts says he's waiting for a public apology, and dozens of supporters have showed up to wait with him, including City Council member JoAnn Watson and activist Maureen Taylor. "Disrespect the people and we'll shut you down, shut you down right now," was the chant when News Hits stopped in on a line of 30 or so protesters last Friday.
Pitts said he didn't care if the restaurant had a policy of not opening its bathroom to the homeless. "Put a sign up or something," he said. And anyways, he added, "I'm not homeless. You can't go by just looks and you can't just attack people bodily and throw them out of your establishment."News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com