A Charlotte, N.C. pizzeria has found itself caught in the middle of a bitter political battle between a group of President Donald Trump supporters and a former employee who’s a political activist.
In the last few weeks, Pizza Peel owner Will Bigham said his restaurant has been roiled by what began as a months-long fight on social media that quickly devolved into an all out war words between the two sides. Now, the pizzeria is facing boycotts after a former bartender claims he was unjustly fired for defending himself against the pro-Trump group.
“It’s like a little microcosm of where we are in this country,” Bigham, who heads restaurant group Stomp, Chomp and Roll,” told the Charlotte Observer.
On March 25, former bartender Andrew Woods led several dozen protesters inside the restaurant after he was let go by Pizza Peel. Bigham insists Woods was fired for “inciting violence,” however, the former mixologist claims he was canned after standing up to his political adversaries who allegedly sent him death threats on Facebook.
“If they will do it to me, they will do it to people more vulnerable than me,” he told the newspaper.
Woods, a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter, said it all started when the opposing group started leaving negative reviews about the restaurant after learning that he worked there. Deplorable Pride, which describes itself as a “conservative LGBT voice,” was upset over an alleged post on Woods’ personal Facebook page calling for “brutal harm [to]” all white, Republican Trump supporters.
In response to the angry phone calls and negative online reviews to his employer, Woods posted online video inviting Republicans and white nationalists to fight just blocks from the restaurant, The Charlotte Observer reported. That’s when he said his managers called him to to talk about his social media activity.
Woods was fired later that night — and the police were present for it.
“When The Pizza Peel Plaza Midwood called the police to threaten me because they are apparently writing a book called ‘WE ARE REALLY FUCKING UP PRETTY BAD HERE, ROB LARSEN; THE PIZZA PEEL SAGA – a brief guide for small business owners on how to gift-wrap yourself into a package that says ‘Lawsuit me harder, zaddy xp,’ ” the bartender wrote in a lengthy Facebook post.
Woods is now planning a boycott, which his says is less about his firing and more about the fact that officers were called to be present for his firing.
“I’ve been fired, I know how to take a firing, that’s not the problem,” he told local station WSOC-TV. “The problem is the weaponization of police against me as a person of color.”
Protesters stormed the pizzeria Monday chanting “Black Lives Matter” before presenting the restaurant group’s owners with a list of demands, including donations to charities benefiting the homeless, required training for led by Black women, and the display of Black Lives Matter placards at the restaurant.
Woods met privately with Pizza Peel management in during the protest and said the owners refused all of his demands. The former bartender has since promised to return with a more intense protest.
In a statement, Bigham explained that Pizza Peel management dialed police 15 minutes prior to their scheduled meeting with Woods “out of concern” for the safety of customers and fellow employees. Three Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers arrived shortly before managers informed Woods of his termination.
“Our mission is to intentionally spread the love – and that’s love for everyone,” said Bigham, echoing the motto of his restaurant group. “Hate against hate is never gonna win.”
Watch more in the video below.