Cubans and other community members in Louisville, Kentucky, gathered on Aug. 2 to denounce tactics used by Black Lives Matter activists that some described as similar to methods of pressure used by the mafia.
The activists “should be ashamed of themselves,” Fernando Martinez, a Cuban immigrant who owns La Bodeguita de Mima, said at the rally.
Ahamara Brewster, leader of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, attended in support of the Cuban American community.
The list of demands “is just unethical,” she told reporters. “That’s not how you handle business. If you want help from someone, there’s a way of going about it, being diplomatic about it. But you don’t threaten anybody.”
According to the list of demands, circulated by activists in July, business owners must increase the percentage of black people on their staff to 23 percent or more, purchase at least 23 percent of inventory from black retailers or donate 1.5 percent of new sales to “Black Local Organizations,” and implement diversity training.
Business owners should also acknowledge black people were harmed when they were displaced because of changes in parts of downtown decades ago.
Unless owners comply by Aug. 17, activists plan to post negative reviews and social media posts about them, according to WDRB, which published a photograph of the demands.
Some businesses later posted so-called contracts that state their businesses “played a part in the harm done to Clarksdale’s original residents,” who were then denied job opportunities “by the gentrifiers who destroyed their community.”
Lauren Justice, co-owner of Nouvelle Bar & Bottle, told the Louisville Courier-Journal in an email that she and other business owners are responsible for responding to the group’s demands.
“As owners of Nouvelle, we realize we could and should have been doing more and we are trying to do better,” she said. “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.”
Lisa Kahl-Hillerich, who owns Roxy Nell, told the paper she thinks her business is already inclusive and doesn’t appreciate activists issuing demands without consulting with business owners.
Black Lives Matter Louisville didn’t immediately respond to a request by The Epoch Times for comment. The organization is not an official chapter of Black Lives Matter Global Network.
As Martinez spoke on Aug. 2, some in the crowd held signs that said “We left Cuba because of socialism. Be careful what you wish for.”
Martinez on Facebook last week compared the demands to “mafia tactics.” After Martinez spoke out, a group of protesters reportedly went to his restaurant. While there, one broke a flower pot.
People calling him names haven’t taken the time to get to know him, Martinez said, adding, “How can I be called a bigot and a racist when my family is black? When my son is gay?”
While Cubans oppose socialism because they escaped from an oppressive socialist country, they don’t oppose the black community, the restaurant owner stressed.
“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.”
Not everybody agreed with the comments at the rally.
Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, said on social media that she disagreed with Martinez’s methods.
“Some business owners have responded to say, we understand your hurt but we were not part of a gentrification plan. We can’t meet this demand but here you do have a point and we can improve,” she wrote.
“We all must be a part of the solution. While we can appreciate disagreeing with the tactic or strategy—to organize against the sentiment is unacceptable.”
Martinez “seems to be aligned with a message that the BLM movement is a socialist danger threatening this nation,” Reynolds added.
Two of the Black Lives Matter movement’s founders have described themselves as “trained Marxists,” or adherents to the far-left ideology.
“I will not support a business owner who aligns the Black Lives Matter movement with the destruction of America or tells white people trying to be responsive to ‘take their white guilt’ somewhere else,” Reynolds said.