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Despite its notoriously long lines, empty shelves, and occasional rodent appearances, the grocery store known as the “Soviet Safeway” in Dupont Circle has managed to maintain a steady stream of resentful customers. That may change when Fresh Fields opens up a shiny beacon of organic competition at 14th and P Streets NW. But if last Saturday was any indication, Safeway will have to work a little harder to keep customers loyal even before its rival arrives. An evening melee started with a man inside the store punching a Safeway “courtesy clerk,” giving him a nasty black eye. The fight then moved outside. Another Safeway clerk cold-cocked the shopper and knocked him out on the sidewalk. The wounded courtesy clerk then rushed forward and started kicking the unconscious attacker as he lay on the ground, according to onlookers, who screamed for the employee to stop. “If we didn’t intervene, it would have been really bad,” said one woman, who asked not to be identified. In the end, it was the man on the ground who left with the police, after they discovered drug paraphernalia in his pocket. Safeway spokesperson Greg TenEyck says the clerk is back at work, and the store did not press charges. As for kicking a man while he was down, TenEyck responds that “Safeway does not confirm nor deny the kicking.”

Reporting by Danny Freedman, Laura Lang, Amanda Ripley, and Erik Wemple.

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