Nearly a week after Southern diner OK Cafe came under fire for displaying an insensitive banner during a student-led Black Lives Matter march, the Buckhead restaurant removed controversial artwork depicting a former Georgia state flag. The flag, which flew over Georgia from 1956 until 2001, incorporates the Confederate battle emblem.
Other signs displayed at OK Cafe last week included “Law & Order = Peace,” “OK Cafe Loves America,” and “We Support the Georgia Police Force.”
According to a report by WSB-TV, the Georgia state flag artwork will be auctioned off and its proceeds donated to the “police force.” The piece has been on display inside OK Cafe for 33 years.
“I thought, ‘Well, I’m just going to take it down. We’re going to auction it off because I understand it offends people,” DeRose told WSB. “So I’m going to take it down and we’re going to give the money to the police force.”
The flag art and controversial comments made throughout the week to various news outlets regarding the banner and the Black Lives Matter movement, including to Eater Atlanta, by co-owner Susan DeRose have been met with fierce rebuke on social media.
DeRose says there was an “eery silence for a moment” when the artwork finally came down from the wall at OK Cafe on Friday afternoon, followed by applause.
“Considering all we’ve seen over these last two weeks, I didn’t want the wonderful people who work at OK Cafe (and many for decades) to be harmed over a piece of art, so I made the decision to take it away,” DeRose tells Eater in an email, who says the restaurant has been receiving “threats” over the artwork and banner.
Isabel Johnson, one of the organizers of Sunday’s student-led march, Buckhead4BlackLives, was in attendance on Friday as the artwork was removed from OK Cafe. Johnson is a recent alumna of the Lovett School and now attends Georgia Tech.
“I’m glad to see that steps are being taken to kind of reform the restaurant and to make it a little bit more friendly for everyone,” Johnson told WSB on Friday. “I think it’s a good first gesture but I think a lot more needs to be done in reforming how people are treated.”
She and several alumni and students from three area private schools gathered in the parking lot at the West Paces Ferry shopping plaza last weekend to march to the governor’s mansion in response to the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. Nearly 3,000 people attended the peaceful protest, including Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and radio personality Frank Ski. Ski is the father of two of the Buckhead4BlackLives student organizers.
Eater reached out to Johnson for comment on the removal of the flag artwork.
The United States Marine Corp recently banned the use of the Confederate emblem from all of its installations worldwide saying it “has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups.” Earlier this week, NASCAR also banned the use of Confederate flags at all race events and at its properties.