Two Saturday nights ago at the Barbary, a typical dancefloor incident occurred: One reveller, wittingly or unwittingly, elbowed into another and an altercation ensued. What happened after that, however, has been anything but typical; and it’s resulted in a controversy that for the last week or so has variously pushed buttons, threatened to ruin reputations and a business, plus ruin the life of one young man who may or may not have had it coming. Oh, and there’s a black eye and broken leg, too.
Having spoken with a number of sources close to the scene — but not the victims or the alleged attacker, for whom the incident is now a police matter — here is as best we’ve been able to surmise what happened: At around 1:45AM or so on the morning of June 19th, a local scenester named Michael Calamari was dancing with friends. At some point, he came into contact with two young women, either by accident or on purpose, words were exchanged, and a melee ensued. When it was all over, punches had been thrown and minor injuries were sustained; it was all over, according to everyone we spoke with, in a matter of seconds. And that was where the confusion really began.
Though stories vary, all contend that Calamari, one way or the other, was at the center of this mess. And pretty much since the moment he was identified, a campaign has begun to basically destroy the man, with little regard for the usual process of letting the law and those actually involved sort this all out. Early last week, posts began appearing about the incident simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, and local messageboard BCO. From there, the narrative of the incident quickly got away from those who were actually on the scene; a kind of social media mob mentality gathered steam, and soon, two major threads had emerged: One demanding that Calamari be brought to justice for his alleged crimes, be that justice of the street or legal variety, and another insinuating that the Barbary staff and management were somehow (and for some unknown reason) trying to protect Calamari. (Full disclosure: The Barbary is a Philebrity advertiser.) Meanwhile, some members of BCO had begun a sort of online hearsay inquest as to whether Calamari had had a history of violence toward women. By the end of the week, the flyer you see above was plastered all over Fishtown and Northern Liberties. Calamari had been convicted by an ad hoc court of his peers.
But even as everyone within earshot was being alerted to the incident and every variety under the sun of shit-talk on Calamari, confusion still ran rampant as to what actually happened. It eventually emerged that one of the women involved in the incident had actually injured her leg after the incident had happened — which went counter to the previous rumor that Calamari had injured two women. Barbary proprietor John Redden spent a large part of the week talking with everyone he could, including one of the victims, a friend of his, to ascertain what exactly happened — and what measures he could and should take. He eventually released the following statement:
I can tell you that when it happened, that we took the necessary steps we always would during any type of altercation. It is completely up to the parties involved as to what further steps are taken. I am a personal friend of one of the girls involved, and have been talking to her since the incident occurred. I do not condone any type of violence at the Barbary or in general. I will continue to make the Barbary as safe and as comfortable as possible.
Meanwhile, the debate and attendant witchhunt on BCO and Facebook and elsewhere grew more and more unseemly. Finally, over the weekend, one young woman, who’d emerged as possibly the only person who’d actually witnessed the altercation, released a statement on Facebook:
The night of the incident Michael and I were dancing for a good part of the night right in front of the stage. At one point I saw him bump into someone, we kept dancing, I heard her say something to him, (I’m not sure what it was) we just kept dancing. Out of nowhere I saw two girls start coming after him hitting him in the head. Being in shock I stood there for a second. I then saw Michael push the girls off of him. I walked onto the stage to get out of the middle of it and by the time I turned around they were all gone. Everything happened very quickly in less then a minute. As far as I know, from what I’ve been told I am the only witness besides the people involved.
Shortly thereafter, a comment was left underneath saying that she probably didn’t see the whole thing.
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