Quietly chatting with friends in a restaurant parking lot is the latest addition to a growing list of things Black folks can’t do without having the cops called on them.
A Chili’s restaurant in Abbeville, La., is facing backlash after a viral video showed officers confronting a group of Black men and women who were standing outside talking with their “to–go” plates in hand, station WWL-TV reported. The group of roughly a dozen friends said they were just continuing conversations that started inside the restaurant when police rolled up and told them to keep it moving.
” … We were racially profiled and marked as threats because we are Black,” patron Jhodi Henderson wrote on his Facebook page. “You can spend your money at chili’s if you want, but my black a– works too hard to give chili’s another dollar after being treated the way I was.”
Video of the incident, taken by Laura Briggs, another group member, shows authorities approach the group and explain that Chili’s is closing soon, noting that staff wanted them off the property.
“All we’re doing is talking,” one man explains. “Why? Cause we’re Black and we’re talking?”
Seemingly agitated, the policeman explains that the parking lot is private property and that restaurant management “can decide who they do and don’t want in there.” Officers stopped short of giving a clear reason for why the paying customers were asked to leave, however, sparking a brief back and forth between them and the group.
“We’re just sitting out here talking to our friend, she came from Honduras,” a man says on the video. “All we’re doing is talking. My homeboy in there, he came out and told me, ‘They think you’re trying to intimidate somebody.’ Why? Because we’re Black and we’re talking? They just had some white ladies (out here) talking.”
According to WWL-TV, Chili’s said the group received their check at 9:45 p.m. and that a guest requested to have them removed around 10:42 p.m. Authorities arrived at 10:48 p.m.
Cheli Breaux, Chili’s Central Louisiana Director of Operations, issued a statement in response to the incident, insisting the restaurant values all its customers and has reached out to the patrons involved, who she described as “regulars.”
“When walking into our restaurants each day, we believe our ChiliHeads have one job and that’s to make every guest feel special while dining with us,” Breaux wrote. “We know and regret that the experience for some of our Chili’s Abbeville guests on Saturday, June 23 did not reflect this.”
“Our focus now is to talk with our guests to better understand how they were treated at Chili’s Abbeville and learn how we can better live out our promise to ensure every guest feels welcome in our restaurants,” she continued.