Demonstrators in North Carolina are protesting a pizza chain whose management called for police protection when the owners fired a worker on his day off because the employee’s activism made him the target of a local Pro-Trump group.
While that may sound like the plot of every black movie ever, this is not a synopsis of Spike Lee’s upcoming comedy, Do The White Thing Next Friday, (Starring Ice Cube, Chris Tucker and introducing Liam Neeson as “Sal.”) It’s what happened to Charlotte, N.C., activist Andrew Woods.
In the fall of 2018, Woods was working as a bartender at Divine Barrel, a Charlotte, N.C., brewery, when he heard that Donald Trump planned to visit the city to stump for Mark Harris, the Republican whose campaign has been tainted by allegations of election fraud.
“Ever since the Trump administration enacted the child separation policy, I’ve been increasingly getting organized in activism,” Woods told The Root. “But I wasn’t just focused on immigration policy, I was getting active with groups that worked with black women and queer and trans people.”
So, Woods and a group of local activists started a campaign to reserve seats for the campaign event and leave them empty. This action put them on the radar of another group of Charlotte activists called Deplorable Pride that appears to have been kicked off Black Twitter but maintains a presence on White Facebook. The organization is headed by a Trump supporter named Brian Talbert.
The White House has reportedly reached out to gay conservative Brian Talbert. This is Brian Talbert: pic.twitter.com/0VIWW9sk9f
— Jeremy Hooper (@goodasyou) June 29, 2017
On May 12, 2018 a man named Brian Talbert was arrested for assaulting me at a rally. I was detained at the time of the incident because I used pepper spray in self defense. The police immediately released me when it was confirmed as self defense, and Talbert was sent to jail. pic.twitter.com/NHnjVevLq3
— Maegan Severt (@feralfemme_) May 16, 2018
“This is a misconception I’d like to clear up,” Woods explained. “Deplorable Pride calls itself a conservative pro-LGBT Group. But their members are not a part of the LGBTQ community. They are not a political group or even a pro-Trump group. They are a hate group. They target people like us and give information on people like us to other hate groups like III Percenters … Like proud boys … Like Identity Evropa.”
According to Woods and Divine Barrel’s social media page, after the Trump event, Deplorable Pride began a smear campaign targeting him at his bartender job. The MAGA supporters began leaving bad reviews and even planned a protest, painting Woods as a violent anti-fascist. Woods, however, doesn’t argue that he is publicly outspoken.
“I’m a revolutionary communist and I stand behind everything I’ve ever said when it comes to politics,” said Woods. “I’m here to speak for the oppressed. I don’t care about what any middle class conservative white person thinks about anything I have to say.”
Woods told The Root that the group’s targeting became so intense, that he and the owners and management at Divine Barrel amicably agreed to part ways. Part of the reason they mutually agreed to Woods’ termination was that the owners of Divine Barrel were connected to Pizza Peel, another restaurant with three locations in the Charlotte area. So Woods began working at Pizza Peel in late 2o18. He continued his activism. Everything was going great even though his new employers were aware of his activism and rhetoric.
Then, Deplorable Pride found out about Andrew’s new job and asked their MAGA minions to target Pizza Peel:
“Pizza Peel, knowing my activism, having access to my social media and were totally comfortable,” Woods explained. “I routinely stated that every department of the Homeland Security should be executed for war crimes. I have said that, if a Republican is injured you should refuse to offer them medical help.”
The owners and management at Woods’ new workplace seemed to be cool with his off-work activism so he wasn’t concerned. Even when his bosses called him in to discuss his social media, the text messages were friendly. It seemed as if they would have a pleasant discussion.
Pizza Peel fired his ass.
But they didn’t just fire him, they brought some backup to either intimidate Woods or … well … since the management and ownership at Pizza Peel or its parent company, Stomp, Chomp & Roll, has not responded to The Root’s offer to tell their side of the story, we don’t know exactly why they called the police.
“When they fired me—which they could have done in North Carolina via email, text or a phone call—they called me in on my day off,” Woods told The Root. “I was called to the building, where I was met by one of the owners and three police officers. They called me there to have me escorted out of the place they just called me to come to!”
“Had they said we are uncomfortable with your social media or we don’t agree with your political views or any number of things, I would have happily left,” said Woods, noting that this exact situation happened at Divine Barrel and he exited without any problems or police.
Of course, Deplorable Pride was elated.
So Woods called up local activists and organized a protest against Pizza Peel. To be clear it wasn’t being fired that bothered Woods. It was the fact that he was basically threatened with the police. Unlike Andrew,
white many people don’t consider the presence of law enforcement officers to be a threat. Maybe there’s a synonym for when your friend texts you to meet them somewhere, and when you show up, they are waiting for you with three gun-toting men who could legally shoot you in the face and get away with it.
Maybe “peril” is a better word? “Menace?” How about a phrase like: “A danger to my current breathing situation?”
Nah, I’mma go with “threat.”
“As someone who fervently believes that Black Lives Matter, using the police as a weapon against people of color is an act of violence,” Woods explained. “That is why we are protesting. That is why I’m mad.”
A few hours later, 12-20 protesters rallied at the restaurant to protest the officer-involved firing, according to the Charlotte Observer and WSOC. Woods said he made sure that black women and people from the gay and trans community were included in the planning and the pizzeria eventually closed its doors for the day. The protesters vowed to continue their demonstrations unless four community-conscious demands were met by Stomp Chop & Roll, Pizza Peel’s ownership group:
- Every restaurant owned by Stop Chomp & Roll must display a Black Lives Matter sticker on the door for one year.
- Each location must donate $1,000 to charities that benefit black people.
- All of the managers will undergo sensitivity training administered by black, gay and trans people who are paid for their training.
- A sum of $1,500 per month in food be given to the homeless in the community surrounding each location.
Woods says he has already found other employment and is not seeking any monetary compensation from Pizza Peel.
“I’m not asking them to work there. I’m not asking for my job back. It was cool to work there. I liked it. But the firing was not my issue. It was how they did it.”
“What did happen is we harnessed collective community power,” Woods noted. “We shut down the business during business hours … Now, when they see Pizza Peel, they now see a police standoff. And no one likes to see a police standoff when they’re eating dinner. And what’s beautiful, there is literally nothing they can do to retaliate. I already have work.”
“They can’t fight me,” added Woods. “Which I’m perfectly willing to do if they want to.”