Bernice King, the youngest daughter of Civil Rights icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, is calling for the boycott of Atlanta-based chain Waffle House after a video surfaced of an incident involving a police officer at a location in Warsaw, North Carolina. The video shows an officer choking, then pushing 22-year-old Anthony Wall to the ground. Wall was in formal attire and had just taken his 16-year-old sister to the prom.
Wall and an employee argued after he and his sister sat at a table which hadn’t been cleared.
King, the CEO of the King Center in Atlanta, took to Twitter Thursday asking people to “stay out of Waffle House until the corporate office” commits to employee training and discussions on racism.
Family, let’s stay out of @WaffleHouse until the corporate office legitimately and seriously commits to 1) discussion on racism, 2) employee training, and 3) other plans to change; and until they start to implement changes. https://t.co/NJWFOBKN7i— Be A King (@BerniceKing) May 10, 2018
King has been vocal on Twitter about the arrests and use of force in recent incidents at the Southern diner chain headquartered in Norcross, Georgia; including the arrest of Chikesia Clemons in Saraland, Alabama three weeks ago. Clemons was forced to the ground during the violent arrest where her breasts were exposed and an officer threatened to break her arm. King asked on Twitter for people to “Talk about what happened to her. Stand for the safety of Black girls and women.”
However, King isn’t the first to call for a boycott of Waffle House. Following Clemons’ arrest, members of several activists groups including Black Lives Matter Atlanta, the Gwinnett County NAACP, and Street Peace America met with Waffle House officials in late April at the Norcross headquarters. The meeting quickly turned tense when the group was handed a statement defending the actions of Waffle House employees who are trained to call the police when they feel their safety is at risk.
The groups gathered called for a national boycott of Waffle House in May.
Atlanta attorney Gerald Griggs, who has been leading demonstrations at area Waffle House locations since the call for a boycott, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he is “encouraging economic disruption” around what he says is an “epidemic of the culture around Waffle House.”
He is planning a demonstration for 9 a.m. Saturday at a Waffle House on Cobb Parkway across from Braves SunTrust Park. Griggs says Clemons will be at the demonstration.
Update: Pat Warner, director of PR and external affairs for Waffle House, responded to Eater Atlanta’s request for comment with the following statement:
“We are reaching out to Ms. King so we can discuss her concerns.”
“We believe there is more to these stories than the short videos that have been posted might suggest. We understand people have concerns about these incidents; however we encourage everyone to consider all the facts before making up their minds.”
“For example, in the Warsaw, N.C., incident, Mr. Wall told WTVD-TV in Raleigh that he takes full responsibility for his interaction with Waffle House employees inside our restaurant. And in the Saraland, Ala., incident eye witnesses, both customers and employees, report threats of violence to our employees were made by Ms. Clemons’ party including use of a gun.”
“Our review of these incidents do not indicate race was an issue in the decision to call the police in either case. Both incidents escalated quickly, and our employees called the police because of safety concerns for their customers and themselves. We train our employees to call the police whenever they feel in danger, or if they feel their customers are in danger.”
“As anyone who has dined with us knows, we have a very diverse customer base and workforce. Our culture of inclusion is something of which we are very proud. We want everyone to have a great experience in our restaurants. However, the safety of our customers and associates is paramount, and we take this responsibility very seriously.”
Eater Atlanta has reached out to the King Center for comment.
Waffle House was founded in Avondale Estates just east of Atlanta in 1955 by Joe Rogers, Sr. and Tom Forkner. The chain has 1700 stores in 25 states. Over 400 stores are in Georgia. The site of the first Waffle House located at 2719 East College Avenue is now a museum.
May 11, 2:30 p.m.: This story has been updated with the official statement from Waffle House.