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Detroit pub refused to serve Irish people at St. Patrick’s Day Parade — to make a point

DETROIT — The bouncer who called Irish people "lazy" and "lower-class citizens" last weekend at the door of a pub on the bustling parade route of Detroit's St. Patrick's Day Parade ignited more than a few tempers.

But he wasn't trying to spark a fight — just make people think.

It was all part of an experiment to raise awareness about how poorly Irish immigrants were once treated in the U.S. against the backdrop of prominent modern-day conversations about race and immigration.

Creator Dan Margulis had a production company record the scene at the fake, temporary pub and produce a polished video of people's stunned reactions. The video is posted on his website, NoIrishPub.com.

Bill Johns acted as a bouncer Sunday, March 10 2018 outside the "No Irish Pub,” a fake pub set up for one day on Michigan Avenue in Detroit as part of an experiment to raise awareness about how poorly Irish immigrants were once treated in the U.S., and to make people think about how immigrants are treated today.

"On a day when everyone is proclaiming solidarity with an immigrant group ... we wanted them to feel what it was like to be treated like an Irish immigrant ... years ago in this country, and, hopefully, that would get them to think about the way we treat current immigrant groups," Margulis said.

Margulis, who works in advertising and lives in Bloomfield Hills, rented an empty space on Michigan Avenue on a strip between popular bars Nemo's and McShane's for the St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday. He hung a sign that said "No Irish Pub."

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People were turned away if they said they were Irish — or were simply wearing green. Only a few of the hundreds of people who tried to enter actually got inside.

Margulis said it was meant to harken back to a time when some businesses would hang "No Irish need apply" signs in their windows.

Century-old newspaper articles that described Irish immigrants as "simians," "too lazy to work" and members of "a servant race" helped fuel bouncer Bill Johns' language as he sat outside the pub, telling people they couldn't come in.

"We don't need no more immigrants in this country. They're ruining this country. ... The majority of them aren't helping anybody but themselves," Johns can be seen on the video telling passers-by.

Margulis said: "People were outraged, and they didn't understand how someone could be so racist."

Most people weren't let in on the secret. The few people who got really angry were given a brochure that explained what was going on. Someone also handed out brochures down the street.

"There were few people who got extremely angry and wanted to fight, and they diffused that," Margulis said.

He also said: "Our goal wasn't to make people mad. It was to make people think."

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Margulis said some people who received the handout said they thought the effort was fantastic.

Margulis was inspired to launch "No Irish Pub" by recent media coverage of controversy surrounding the so-called DREAMers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy.

"The general sentiment (is) that we're becoming more and more anti-immigrant," he said. "As we got closer to a day that celebrates immigrants, I thought if those two things collided, I thought maybe it’s a way to get people to think about how we act today. ...

"Anything that I think that allows people to experience what it feels like to be discriminated against firsthand, I think it’s good. It shocks people into empathy. I would absolutely do something like this again."

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