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Attacked St. Pete McDonald's employee hires Clearwater parking lot shooting attorney

Yasmine James said she hopes to use her experience to fight violence against women.
Daniel Taylor (left) was arrested by St. Petersburg police on two misdemeanor charges of simple battery. The 40-year-old transient is accused of attacking McDonald's employee Yasmine James, 20 (right) in a dispute about plastic straws. She fought back in a video that went viral. Police said he was likely intoxicated at the time.
Published Jan. 3

ST. PETERSBURG — The woman who fought off a man who attacked her over a lack of readily available straws in a McDonald's lobby has hired a prominent local attorney to represent her.

Yasmine James, 20, on Wednesday hired Clearwater-based attorney Michele Rayner-Goolsby. Rayner-Goolsby is also the attorney for the family of Markeis McGlockton, the man gunned down in a Clearwater parking lot last July in an incident that reignited national fervor over Florida's stand your ground law.

She also represented the families of three St. Petersburg girls who died after driving a stolen car into a pond during a police chase. And, most recently, she has taken up the case of Michael Taylor, a 17-year-old Winter Haven boy who was shot and killed by police in a Lakeland restaurant's parking lot when he was accused of attempting to ram officers.

Rayner-Goolsby said the now viral video and its fallout serve as examples of a systemic pattern of violence against women, particularly black women.

PREVIOUS STORY: Video shows man attacking employee at St. Pete McDonald's, getting pummeled

"While (attacker Daniel) Taylor was arrested, the McDonald's corporation has yet to release a statement about the incident and has placed Ms. James on leave," Rayner-Goolsby said in a news release. "This case is a clear example of how white privilege and male privilege too often leave Black women alone to defend themselves in the face of harm."

The new year started with the emergence of a quickly viralized video of a confrontation at a St. Pete McDonald's. The video captures the end of a violent confrontation between James and Daniel Taylor, 40, from New Year's Eve. Taylor was apparently unaware of the restaurant's policy to issue straws to customers only when asked — a policy sparked by the city's new law limiting the use of single-use plastic straws. Taylor is seen screaming at James, then reaches across the counter and grabs her uniform collar, pulling her over the counter.

Things then turned for Taylor. James, who said she comes from a boxing family, pulls back and unleashes a flurry of blows on Taylor. Other employees reacted slowly, but the two were eventually separated. Taylor was removed from the restaurant and allegedly kicked another employee in the stomach on the way out.

He was later arrested when police responded to an unarmed robbery on the 1800 block of 34th St. S. Taylor, a white man, falsely told police he was robbed by a group of black people, St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Sandra Bentil said, and couldn't remember what actually happened. Police recognized him from the McDonald's video and was charged with two counts of simple battery. He is currently being held in Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $1,000 bail.

James said she wants to use the incident as a way to fight violence against women.

"I am aware this type of violence happens to women, especially black women, every day," James said in a release. "For me, this was 'the last straw.' I am committed to using this horrible experience as means to fight for justice, not only for myself, but for other women experiencing this kind of violence in environments where they should be safe and protected."

Rayner-Goolsby said no legal action has been taken, but she and her client are "exploring all options."

Representatives from McDonald's did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Contact Daniel Figueroa IV at dfigueroa@tampabay.com. Follow @danuscripts.

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