Protesters gathered outside of a Syracuse, New York, Dunkin’ Donuts on Monday, October 1, after a now-viral video showed an employee pouring water on a sleeping homeless man. The video originally went viral on Facebook on Sunday, September 30.
While the employee remains unidentified, a GoFundMe identified the homeless man as Jeremy Dufresne. At the time of this writing, the GoFundMe exceeded $1700 in just eight hours.
Dufresne, who suffers from schizophrenia and eats most of his meals at the Samaritan Center on North Salina Street in Syracuse, says he was just resting his head as he charged his phone.
According to Dufresne’s family, in addition to schizophrenia, oxygen was cut off from Jeremy’s brain when he was worn, causing him to have lifelong mental and physical struggles such as epilepsy and a learning disability.
The employee has since been suspended pending a full investigation.
When the video was taken, there appeared to be no one else in the restaurant. It was about 8:30 p.m. Dufresne said he wasn’t sleeping. He just put his head down to wait for the phone to charge.
Homeless advocates have called to boycott the Dunkin’ store and people are calling for the worker’s firing on social media. Neither Dunkin’ nor the franchise owner, The Wolak Group, have responded to requests for comment. Al-amin Muhammad, who runs the homeless outreach “We Rise Above the Streets,” went to Dunkin’ this morning to confront the manager. He also led a protest of about 20 people around lunchtime.
Shortly after, the drive-through line was backed up as people ordered their coffee. Two people sitting inside said they were from the Wolak Group, but deferred questions to Dunkin’ corporate. Neither have responded to questions about whether the worker is still employed.
Kimberly Wolak, the Dunkin’ Franchisee and Chief Operating Officer, issued the following statement about the unidentified employee’s conduct:
Dunkin’ has been a part of the Syracuse community for many years, and as the franchisees who own and operate the North Salina Street location, we were extremely disturbed by the behavior of our employees captured in the video.
It not only violated our written policies, but goes against our core values as an organization–which include creating a welcoming and hospitable environment and treating everyone with dignity and respect.
The employees involved in the incident have been suspended pending a complete investigation, and we will be contacting the individual in the video to apologize for the negative experience.
We also intend to work with local advocates to make sure that our employees are better educated as to how to engage with homeless individuals and where to direct them in the community for appropriate assistance.
When asked about the incident, Dufresne — who told Syracuse.com that the employee “probably had some personal problems of his own and needed someone to talk to and he took it out on someone else, like me.”
You can donate to the GoFundMe for Mr. Dufresne here.