State Rep. Liz Miranda (Dorchester) and city officials say they've brokered a deal between Uphams House of Pizza on Columbia Road and a teenager who got into a beef with an employee there that could calm a tense situation that had spread into the community via videos on social media and sparked calls for a boycott of the 30-year-old pizza place.
As part of a 2 1/2-hour mediation session between owner Georgio Papadopoulos and the 16-year-old, both sides agreed to write public statements admitting a share of blame for a Jan. 16 incident in which a pizza slice was flung after what began as a simple disagreement over the girl trying to exchange a brownie she did not feel was good after she took a bite out of it. The session was organized by Miranda and representatives from Boston Police, Mayor Walsh's office and Uphams Corner Main Street to try to bring resolution between the son of Greek immigrants and the daughter of Cape Verdean immigrants.
Papadopoulos agreed to fire the worker involved in the spat and to have city specialists come in to "implement sensitivity and customer service training at our establishment."
Papadopoulos also agreed not to seek criminal charges against the 16-year-old and the friend with her that day - whom he said spat at the employee - after she admitted she had made some things up in a video she posted. "We understand how critical this point in their lives is and how criminalizing them could change the trajectory of their lives forever."
In response to the teen's video, Papadopoulos had posted surveillance video which he said showed the teen throwing the slice of pizza.
After 30 years of serving our neighborhood and supporting countless organizations and youth programs throughout the years, as well as employing a very diverse workforce mirroring the neighborhood in which we serve, we pray these corrective measures will help in regaining the communities forgiveness and trust going forward.
The teen, who described herself as a BPS honor student whose family has been patronizing Upham's House since before she was even born, in turn asked people to stop distributing copies of a video that appears to show a fight inside the restaurant - which was unrelated to the Jan. 16 incident - wrote she should have handled the situation better and pleaded with people to stop posting or reposting the "many negative videos, posts, comments and fake pages" that she said are demeaning and "not fully representative of either parties." One of the videos some linked to her case actually shows a disturbance inside the restaurant that happened a year ago.
The teen explained why she posted the video, in which she described the worker making disparaging comments about her and blacks - and in which she charged the worker threw pizza at her- and how she now regrets having taken the disagreement onto Facebook:
The incident left me feeling astounded and dismayed at the treatment we had received. It caused us to react in a manner that we are not accustomed to and we apologize for our behavior. Looking back at the situation, we acknowledge that we should not have handled this situation as we had as it's not at all reflective of the values instilled in us. I pride myself with being a kind, caring, responsible and respectful person. I am an honor roll high school student of Boston Public School, who works after school and still managed to be involved in many extracurricular activities.
This was definitely a learning experience for me, and I hope that this will be a valuable learning experience for Uphams House of Pizza and all other establishments in our neighborhood as well. Specifically, we plan to work with our elected officials, youth organizations, business owners and community leaders to educated local business on how to treat all their patrons with respect and dignity despite our differences. Also, we want to help lead and provide training to the youth in our neighborhood on how to mediate and de-escalate disparaging, tenuous situations they may encounter.
Miranda wrote on her Facebook page today.
Moving forward, I will connect the young people with youth leaders so that they work to improve youth/ community relations and the business will continue to work closely with the Uphams Corner Main Street program and the office of Neighborhood Services around Customer Service and cultural sensitivity training recommended by us.
We will meet again in 1 week.
There are a lot of problems that happen in our community that only get addressed in courts, jails, online and morgues; that we can solve through mediation and communication. We have the power to change that.