Mayor Interested In Working On Ways To Better Integrate Burmese On Heels Of Laundry Controversy

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 16, 2010 at 6:29 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- Fort Wayne’s mayor is pushing for changes to better integrate Burmese immigrants into the local community.

It comes after a southside laundry ran into problems with some Burmese patrons over proper customer etiquette.

Mayor Tom Henry is inviting Burmese community leaders and others to sit down and discuss ways to make the Burmese feel more welcome, and ways to help them better understand acceptable practices in their new culture.

Ricker's City Laundry at Calhoun and Rudisill has been at the center of a storm, and the owner has issued formal apologies, after it was made public last week that a sign was put up in the laundry, reading, "For sanitary purposes, there are no Burmese people allowed".

Some Burmese customers were accused of spitting inside the business.

We talked to a patron who claims to have first-hand knowledge about spitting and instances of urinating by the Burmese.

Turquoise Harvin/Laundry Patron: " It was disgusting and I've been other places where they've done disgusting things too, yes, and I just feel like, if you're going to be over here, that they should abide by our rules and our way of living, otherwise, go home."

Another laundry customer told us she witnessed a store employee telling a Burmese family to get out of the establishment.

Elizabeth Thammachack/Laundry Patron: " You can't do your laundry here, didn't you read the sign, you can't do your laundry here, and to me, I was disgusted, because I'm like how can you tell a family to not do their laundry there, for their background. It just doesn't make sense and when I saw that, I just took all my clothes and left."

Several Burmese immigrants gathered outside the Allen County Courthouse on Sunday, protesting against discriminatory practices.

The head of the Southside Business Group is speaking out for the rights of Ricker’s City Laundry.

Charlie Hire says both sides need to do better in the situation, but he believes Ricker’s needs to be cut some slack.

Charlie Hire/Southside Business Group President: " We can't just keep saying, crucify them, persecute the business. They'll go away and then we'll lose that business that we need. We have to realize, there has to be a middle ground here."

We have no word from Fort Wayne's Metropolitan Human Relations Commission on whether the civil rights organization plans to file a formal complaint against the laundry in this case.

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