KEY POINTS

  • A Cuban restaurant owner in Louisville, Kentucky, attacked the local Black Lives Matter protests over letters sent to local businesses
  • A counter-protest was held Sunday at the restaurant, with nearly 100 people from the local Cuban community present in a show of support for the restaurant owner
  • The letter asks for businesses' staff to be 23% Black to reflect the local community and buy more from local Black retailers

Black Lives Matter protesters in Louisville, Kentucky, have faced backlash from a restaurant owner over demanding business implement practices that better reflect the local Black community.  The Cuban restaurant owner compared the protesters’ demands to “mafia tactics” ahead of a counter-protest held over the weekend.

The comments were by La Bodeguita de Mima owner Fernando Martinez in response to a letter from the local Black Lives Matter protest organizers over the proposed business practices.

“There comes a time in life that you have to make a stand and you have to really prove your convictions and what you believe in,” Martinez said on Facebook. “All good people need to denounce this. How can you justified (sic) injustice with more injustice?”

Martinez was one of several business owners in Louisville’s East Market district, also known as NuLu, who received the letters over the last week. The list of demands in the letter included:

  • Adequately represent the Black population of Louisville by having a minimum of 23% Black staff
  • Purchase a minimum of 23% inventory from Black retailers or make a recurring monthly donation of 1.5% of net sales to a local Black nonprofit or organization
  • Require diversity and inclusion training for all staff members on a bi-annual basis
  • Display a visible sign that increases awareness and shows support for the reparations movement

Counter-protests took place Sunday in NuLu as a show support for Martinez who spoke to the crowd of nearly 100 people.

“La Bodeguita is open to everybody,” Martinez said. “If you're gay, this is your home. If you're Black, this is your home. If you're white, this is your home. If you're human, this is your home.”

He also denounced accusations levied at either himself or his business over an alleged lack of diversity.

“How can I be called a bigot and a racist when my family is Black? When my son is gay?” Martinez said. “I'm the proud father of a gay son, and I'm gonna fight for him against anybody.”

Local activist Phelix Crittenden said the letter was not meant to read as a threat, but instead point out how NuLu has flourished over the last 20 years thanks to gentrification and the harm it caused the local Black community.

“NuLu is flourishing,” Crittenden told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “To see that literal line in the sand, as soon as you cross the street, it's very disturbing. NuLu doesn't reflect the community they sit in and claim to incorporate and serve.”

Crittenden’s comments are in reference to Black residents who were displaced in the early 2000s after the demolition of the Clarksdale housing project previously located by NuLu. Mixed-income housing was built to replace the project and only 41 of the 635 families displaced by the project’s demolition returned to the neighborhood.

Some business owners in NuLu don’t subscribe to Martinez’s sentiment, either, and agree local businesses need to address the history of gentrification they’re built on. One of those business owners is Lauren Justice, co-owner of Nouvelle Bar & Bottle.

“As owners of Nouvelle, we realize we could and should have been doing more and we are trying to do better,” Justice told the Courier-Journal. “We know there's a lot more work to be done and that a long-term commitment is what it takes to make sustainable change.”

The UN Human Rights Committee said that "worldwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter," such as this one in Graham, North Carolina on July 11, 2020, have underscored the importance of the right to peaceful assembly Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who waved guns at protesters passing by their mansion in June 2020, have been pardoned. Photo: AFP / Logan Cyrus