Liz Krieger, 27, was enjoying a drink with friends outside a bar on Second Street in Old City on Sunday afternoon — where the summer crowds were behaving almost as if the coronavirus did not exist.
Then, a Black man on a bike stopped near the restaurant and began shouting, “Social distancing! No one is wearing a mask!” Restaurant goers started shouting back, telling him to go away.
It was a dispute typical of America in the pandemic — until one of the men sitting there, Jamie Atlig, owner of nearby Infusion Lounge, stood up as if to fight. Krieger and another woman rushed to position themselves in between them.
According to Krieger, the man with the bike shouted something about “MAGA privilege,” while Atlig shouted “Trump 2020!” That’s when Atlig pulled a gun, and Krieger said she saw the Black man freeze at the sight, then pull out his bike lock in self defense.
“People were screaming, ‘He has a gun!‘” she said. “And I was screaming, ‘He has a bike lock!‘”
In seconds, Atlig, owner of Infusion Lounge nearby, had put away his gun. And the other man, whom Krieger didn’t know, picked up his bike and rode off.
When reached for comment, Atlig referred all questions to his lawyer, Robert Gamburg, who confirmed that it was his client who is seen in the video pulling the gun on the passerby. Gamburg said the pedestrian was being “confrontational” with guests at the lounge and “was engaging in threatening behavior, menacing behavior.”
“Mr. Atlig is licensed to carry a firearm. He has extensive firearm training. He’s a business owner and he was being threatened,” Gamburg said. “The individual reached behind his back for an object, Mr. Atlig unholstered his licensed firearm, defused the situation, and sat back down.”
Atlig was questioned by police after the incident on Sunday, Gamburg said, though he didn’t know who called authorities to the scene.
A police spokesperson, Eric McLaurin, said on Monday afternoon that it’s “a very active investigation at this point.”
Krieger said police arrived shortly afterward but did not take a report because the victim had already left. To Krieger, the seeming lack of consequences was what compelled her to share the story with her friend D.J. Torney, an intern for City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas, who posted it to Twitter.
“The Black man doesn’t need to be killed for this to be a story,” she said. “A man had a gun pulled on him for speaking the truth. We weren’t social distancing. He was completely in the right to be yelling at us — and if I hadn’t been there, this is how Black people are shot and it’s claimed later that he had a bike lock on him and people thought it was a gun. But let’s be clear: The bike lock was never pulled out [until after the gun was].”
As Philadelphia is easing back into public life after months of shutdowns and nearly a month of protests, the episode is causing the Old City District to think carefully about its plans to expand outdoor dining into the street, the organization’s executive director Job Itzkovitz said.
“We want to do things cautiously and deliberately and with safety being a top concern,” he said.
Thomas, in sharing the video, expressed outrage after the holiday weekend that brought at least 30 shootings to the city.