A group of about 25 protesters, including several breastfeeding mothers and chanting supporters, held a nurse-in outside the Denny’s restaurant off Patton Avenue in West Asheville on Sunday afternoon.
Outside the restaurant, a Denny’s official apologized to organizer Crystal Everitt regarding an incident two weeks ago that sparked the protest, but Everitt said his statement wasn’t enough.
Everitt says she was in the restaurant two weeks ago breast-feeding her 1-year-old son when she was asked by the restaurant’s manager to cover herself or move to the bathroom. Everitt says she declined, citing state law, which protects the rights of mothers to breastfeed in any public or private location.
Rick Pate, regional director of operations for the Asheville Denny’s franchise, said Denny’s “responsibility as a family restaurant is to provide a nonoffensive environment for all of our valued guests. Obviously, if any behavior or any practice that happened two weeks ago while she was in the restaurant — specifically us asking her to cover up — offended her in any way, we’re sincerely sorry for that. We apologize for that,” Pate said.
“My goal today was today was to come out and speak to everyone that was here to protest, with a desire to have them come in my restaurant and have lunch with us today,” Pate said, adding that breast-feeding mothers are always welcome.
Everitt said Pate’s statement wasn’t good enough. She said that the statement, which matches a statement she received from Denny’s corporate office, leaves it up to the discretion of the restaurant to determine what is nonoffensive.
“They’re putting in a discretion clause, and they might as well not have a policy at all,” Everitt said, while standing outside the restaurant and nursing her child. “Who is it that determines if I’m being discreet or not? ‘Discreet’ should not even be in there.”
“Their policy is not in line with the law, so it’s absolutely not OK,” she said. “They need to guarantee that moms will not be harassed.”
Standing alongside Regent Drive off Patton Avenue in a bracing wind, the group of protesters held signs that read “Breast feeding is not shameful” and chanted, “Breastfeeding’s not a crime. Why won’t you let babies dine?”
Click here to see a photo gallery of the nurse-in. Click below to see video from the nurse-in.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor