Among the group was Union City Freeholder/Commissioner Tilo Rivas, who was supposedly there to lend his support to his Dominican community. However, the commissioner's presence caused Guzman to speculate that the protest had been organized by Mayor Brian Stack.
"Commissioner Tilo Rivas and city officials called [Dominican residents] to picket, and said I was a liar and that Brian was the only leader in Union City, and that I had to leave town," said Guzman.
However, the members of the Dominican Committee of Union City are the ones taking full responsibility for organizing the protest.
"We did this protest over circumstances that have been brought about by the owner of Therapy Lounge," said Odesea Disla. "He has no reason to make certain comments on behalf of the Dominican population. The Dominican community is very big in this area, and [Guzman] doesn't speak for us."
Why did they protest?
According to Disla and other members of the committee, their main reason for organizing the protest was that they believed Guzman was going around saying things against the mayor and the city, and that he acted as if he was speaking on behalf of the Dominican people.
"We do not agree with what he has been saying," Disla said. "We are not disgruntled with Brian Stack. [Guzman] he should not be speaking on behalf of us."
Guzman speculated that the motive for the protest was that he had written to one of the local newspapers stating that the construction of the new Jose Marti Middle School was not thanks to the Union City government, but because of a state mandate.
"I've been to many public functions since then, and the mayor's assistant is always telling me to get out," said Guzman.
Things became heated in town recently with a referendum that was on the ballot in the Nov. 2 election. Town activists were trying to get the school board converted from an appointed board to a board elected by the people. Mayor Stack and his supporters campaigned heavily to keep an appointed board, and managed to win by a landslide. Guzman was uninvolved in that particular campaign, but he is associated with the activists who opposed Stack in the referendum.
There was also an incident involving the organization of the Dominican Day Parade. Guzman claims that Mayor Stack did not give him the permission for the parade in time, and as a result, he was unable to hold the parade. Guzman and two others filled out an application for the parade permit in late 2003, but did not receive the permit in the mail on time. They decided to resubmit an application, and rescheduled the parade for Sept. 26, 2004. "We received the permit August 13 for the September parade, but by then it was too late [to get sponsors]," said Guzman.
According to Dominican Committee member Freddy Gomez, however, the reason the parade didn't happen was that were two Dominican groups trying to get sponsors for parades at the same time. The Dominican Committee, who by that point had been the only ones organizing the parade for the last few years, were also trying to organize a parade.
Gomez said neither group ended up having a parade. When his group tried to obtain sponsors such as Goya and Univision Channel 41, they were denied. The sponsors knew there were two separate organizations trying to conduct parades, and they did not want to get in the middle of a civil dispute.
"It was our own fault because we had so many groups," said Gomez.
Guzman had said he heard that Commissioner Rivas and other city officials called up people in the Dominican community to meet at Juan Pablo Duarte Park to participate in a demonstration that Sunday. However, Guzman had also heard that some of people who showed up had no idea what it was about. From the park, the protest rally marched to Guzman's place of business on Bergenline Avenue.
"While this happened, they were making racist comments, and [said] that I had to leave and couldn't do anything about it," said Guzman.
Guzman said he immediately tried to fill out a police report and was told he was not permitted to. On Wednesday, Oct. 27, he walked into Union City police headquarters with his lawyer, Thomas Espinosa, to file a complaint against Commissioner Rivas and other members of the group who had been present the day of the protest.
In the police report of the incident, Guzman alleges that on Sunday, Oct. 24, at around 4:50 p.m., "a group of protestors rallied up outside of his place of business with posters slandering him and his friend Francisco Nunez." He claimed that they were obstructing the entrance, trapping his patrons inside and preventing anyone else from entering. Guzman also alleges that the group was being led by Commissioner Rivas, and that the group was screaming out racial remarks towards him, including calling him a "black bald loser."
Commissioner Rivas, who wouldn't comment on the matter, has received support from the members of the Dominican Committee, who stated he was only there as a member of the Dominican community.
"Tilo is a Dominican. He is part of that group. The fact that he is a commissioner has nothing to do with this," said Justin Mercado, a member. "Just like the mayor, what he does with his personal life is his business."
"You could be the president of the United States, that doesn't mean you can't do things personally outside of that," said Kennedy Ng, a member.
Guzman further claimed in the complaint that day, that Mayor Brian Stack was being driven around in a white SUV, and at one point pulled up beside him and from the passenger seat said that he had told him he would shut him down.
"That is totally untrue," Mayor Stack said last week. "I was speaking to the chief of police. He was the one I stopped to talk to and ask what was going on."
Mayor Stack denied any involvement and the accusations that were being brought against him involving harassment and conspiracy, and said this was a personal and political agenda.
"This is just sour grapes after an election," said Mayor Stack.
Not the mayor
"The mayor had nothing to do with this," said Disla. "We united ourselves as a community to protest. [Guzman and his friends] are disgruntled with the city over the Dominican Parade, for which they didn't even form a committee. They have their own agendas, and I don't think they have made a positive representation of the Dominican Community."
Guzman signed complaints against Commissioner Rivas and Mayor Stack for harassment, and against members of the protest for obstructing public passage in front of his business. He also signed a "conspiracy to commit a bias intimidation" complaint against Mayor Stack.
One of the members against whom Guzman also filed a police complaint was Freddy Gomez.
"That was us the Dominican community gathering together at Duarte Park, going to the Therapy Lounge, and telling the playboy Robert Guzman that he is not authorized to speak for the Dominican community, and that he has no right to talk about Brian Stack who has done so many things for the Dominican community and has been our greatest ally," said Gomez.
In regards to the accusations of racial slurs Guzman alleged were stated by Gomez and others, Gomez responded by laughing: "That is a lie. Not in any moment had we said anything to him. How am I going to insult him by calling him black when I am black as well? To insult him would be like insulting ourselves."
Gomez also insisted that it was Guzman who came out in a hostile manner. He also asked how Guzman could cry discrimination when the protest was done by other Dominicans.
"There weren't any Italians or Germans," Gomez said. "We were all Dominican."
Guzman said he is in the process of taking legal action against Mayor Brian Stack, Commissioner Tilo Rivas, and Freddy Gomez among others because he felt that the entire demonstration was conspired by them.
Newspapers may sue
There have also been accusations of the mayor and his employees destroying the newspaper bins of some of the town's local Spanish papers, such as Cine Y Telenovelas, whenever they print anything unflattering. The papers are rumored to be thrown into the garbage. Mayor Stack has denied those charges.
Guzman's lawyer, Espinosa, is currently representing some of these publications in a possible legal action against Mayor Brian Stack for violation of their First Amendment civil rights. Guzman owns one of the newspapers.