Travel Blogging the Chick-Fil-A Protests. On Friday, August 3, Dr. Jason Johnson visited several Chick-Fil-A restaurants in Georgia.
I just spent my whole day trying to catch gay people kissing. In Atlanta of all places, you’d think it wouldn’t be that hard.
“Why?” You ask? Because this feud between Chick-Fil-A CEO Dan Cathy and various gay advocacy groups in America has escalated to Nas v.s. Jay-Z levels, with the initial diss, then the backlash, then the backlash to the backlash and now, on Friday the 3rd of August, it’s Chick-Fil-A Backlash 4: This Time it’s Personal.
On Friday national gay rights organizations, individuals and allies banded together for a “Kiss In” wherein gay couples were to kiss in front of Chick-Fil-A, and post the pictures on-line to show up C-F-A CEO Dan Cathy for his anti-gay politics and beliefs. I’m in Atlanta, the Chick-Fil-A Dome (literally) and headquarters and decided to do a roving gay-kissing-protesting-travelogue of as many Chick-Fil-A restaurants that I could get to in a day.
In the end I feel greasy, tired, and most of all confused about what this all really meant.
10:32 a.m. Chick-Fil-A Smyrna (Just outside Atlanta)
I started at the Smyrna store because it was actually ground zero for a CNN story about the Chick-Fil-A v.s. Gays beef just a few days earlier. After the initial ‘backlash’ former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee organized an “Appreciation Day” for the franchise were people were encouraged to come out to C-F-A and show their support for Dan Cathy NOT supporting gay marriage. The Smyrna store apparently got huge crowds, not surprising in a district that was once represented by Newt Gingrich.
When I got there this morning it looked pretty normal. No kissing, no rainbow flags, or cow-scrawled graffiti saying “Tastes Like Hate”. Of course, it might be too early, who wants to get up on a hot Friday morning and kiss somebody in front of a chicken joint? After hovering around for a bit, and realizing it’s not like I could TELL if anyone in the place was gay just by looking, I realized I was starving so I had to order something. Trust me, I was conflicted for awhile, I’m tepidly in support on these anti-Chick-Fil-A protests and boycotts (more on that later) so I didn’t really want to put money into the corporate baddie’spockets. So I settled on buying a $2.95 fruit cup. NO, I was not being funny, I’m on one of those “No Carb” meal plans and it was either a fruit cup or a wilted garden salad drenched with gooey ranch at 10 in the morning. I finally asked the manager “Meredith” (not her real name) about Appreciation Day and about Friday’s protests.
“There were lines around the corner. People parked over at the hospital, and behind at the motel just to walk over here. I had to work 9 ½ hours that day.” She said.
Any Protests today?
A little bummed that my first foray into the kissing protest was so flat I ate my fruit cup and plotted out my next Kerouacian voyeur session.
12:18 p.m. Chick-Fil-A Downtown Decatur
CNN and local news had pointed to the Decatur C-F-A store as ground zero for the gay protests and it provided a pretty sexy back-drop for both what was wrong and right about “Kiss-In” day in general. Decatur is a very gay friendly community, sortofthe left-wing suburban cousin east of Atlanta. What’s more, the owners of this particular store, John and Cristina Crays had been independent owners in the community for 22 years and released a statement saying in part:
We employ more than 70 people — many of which are DHS students. We have provided more than 20 college scholarships to team members in our restaurant alone with many of those awarded to DHS students. Our passion is building leaders for future generations, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs.
We know that some of our guests are upset by comments made by Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A Inc. He has made it clear to me those were his personal views, and that his intent was not to speak on behalf of every Chick-fil-A owner. We hope those who are upset will look at their relationship with our restaurant and allow us to continue to serve them. If you have questions or concerns, please come into the restaurant and speak with me personally.
With that in mind I was really curious to see what if anything popped off at the protests. When I got there, about 15 people, men, women, all races were on the corner with protest signs, encouraging passersby to honk in support and handing out literature on gay rights issues. There were probably more reporters there than actual protesters but, that kind of thing happens all the time.
The centerpiece of the protest though was a lesbian couple sitting in the grass with their four children sharing McDonald’s Happy Meals. I must admit, I was impressed with the creativity of the stunt, and the press was in a feeding frenzy to take pictures of this “Modern Family”. However, the choice of McDonald’s is a funny one, the burger giant joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in 2008, but it’s not like they have the best or cleanest record when it comes to human rights or business practices.
I spent a lot of time walking back and forth between the protests and the Chick-Fil-A store itself, talking to the managers, waiting for a friend of mine to come join me from his nearby office and picking up bits and pieces of conversation. A pair of 30-something year old black women walked in saying:
Black Woman #1: Now I KNOW you aren’t doing anything to support gays!
Black Woman #2: Look I don’t care, I want some chicken.
That seemed to be the attitude of most people there, until the managers made their move.
12:30 p.m. Chick-Fil-A Decatur
The C-F-A was overloaded with managers that day, I guess because they didn’t know what to expect, and then suddenly all five men, in their pin-striped shirts and 90’s era khaki pants lined up with trays of freshly squirted lemonade and started making their way from the store to the protesters outside. I followed them out of the store knowing at least one of the following would happen.
• This was going to get ugly and violent and we’d see ourselves on the nightly news.
• This would be an incredibly beautiful moment for the LGBT community, right up there with “I Love my Dead Gay Son” from Heathers.
• We’d get some free lemonade.
Unfortunately only one of these options happened, and it was lemonade.
The managers were polite with their lemonade and the protesters and the press all politely declined. The protesters refused out of solidarity with the movement, the journalists because they wanted to appear objective. Since I’m neither, I had some. Sorry, it was 90 degrees outside. After that people starting looking at me, like the evil sell out that I was, and that was just the beginning of me being healthily positioned as an outsider.
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.