Louisville, KY – A Cuban business owner has fought back after Black Lives Matter protesters issued demands amounting to extortion to business owners in the NuLu (New Louisville) District and said the protesters were using “mafia tactics” to get what they want.
Fernando Martinez, owner of a Cuban restaurant in NuLu, held a rally on Sunday to push back against the extortion, WHAS reported.
“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 wrote in a public Facebook post ahead of the gathering. “… All good people need to denounce this. How can you justified [sic] injustice with more injustice?”
In his speech on Aug. 9, Martinez, condemned socialism and said he loves freedom and the United States, WHAS reported.
His also said that his business isn’t racist.
“La Bodegita is open to everybody. 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 said.
Martinez explained that his objections had to do with the demands being foisted upon him by Black Lives Matter activists, WHAS reported.
“I’m not against the black community. We’re not as a community, as a business, against the black community,” the restauranteur said.
“It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, your sexual preference. My son is gay and I am proud of him. For people to call me a bigot, a racist, it’s not right, it’s not fair,” he told the crowd gathered on the steps of his restaurant.
The demands were given to NuLu business owners in July and included requiring all businesses to make 23 percent of their staff black and to carry a minimum of 23 percent of their inventory from black businesses, WDRB reported.
In lieu of that, retailers can make a monthly contribution of 1.5 percent of net sales to black organizations to avoid being the subject of a boycott.
They also demanded that NuLu non-profits give 23 percent of their board seats to black people, according to The Daily Wire.
Activists complained that lower-income housing was destroyed when the community was gentrified and the NuLu business district was created, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
Business owners were given a deadline for Aug. 17 to comply or else protesters would launch attacks on them in person and on social media.
The president of the NuLu Business Association said the demands didn’t go over well with some of its members, WDRB reported.
“Many of us have embraced not only the protests in downtown Louisville, but the protests through the country calling for change,” NuLu Business Association President Rick Murphy said.
Murphy blamed the protest organizers’ approach, WDRB reported.
“I hate the word demands,” he said. “It’s bullying, it’s mean. We look at what they’ve given us as goals. I don’t embrace demands from anyone. No one can demand something of me, particularly if they accompany that demand with some sort of threat or doing harm to businesses. Right now is the wrong time to try to do harm to businesses.”
Murphy said his organization welcomed input from the community and had created a Social Justice Committee in recent weeks, WDRB reported.
“And that’s specifically for the intent of attracting Black-owned businesses and encouraging Black employment,” he explained. “The concept of what the protesters are asking for is totally reasonable in terms of creating goals for our neighborhood.”
Activists have also demanded 23 percent of the board seats on the NuLu Business Association, according to The Daily Wire.
Black Lives Matter has also demanded that the business owners admit they were complicit in pushing black families out of the neighborhood when the Clarksdale housing project was demolished nearly 20 years earlier, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
Some business owners have caved to demands completely.
Lauren Justice, the white co-owner of Nouvelle Bar & Bottle, said local business owners have “a responsibility to admit” that gentrification occurred, the Louisville Courier Journal reported.
Justice said she thinks the demands were legitimate.
“As owners of Nouvelle, we realize we could and should have been doing more and we are trying to do better,” she said in an email to the Louisville 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.”