The protest, staged by the city’s substantial Cuban-American population, was conceived as a way to push back against the demands sent by the Black Lives Matter crowd to the city’s business owners.
The demands, which were circulated by activists since early July, had several key points that were purportedly aimed at “uplifting” the lives of the Black families in the area.
As noted in the list sent by the activist group, they demand that the city’s business owners must increase the percentage of Black people on their staff to 23 percent or more, purchase at least 23 percent of their inventory from Black retailers or donate 1.5 percent of new sales to “Black Local Organizations,” as well as implement diversity training at least twice a year.
In addition, the activists demanded that business owners acknowledge the “harm” that they allegedly brought upon Black people who were displaced because of gentrification in certain parts of downtown Louisville decades ago.
According to the activists, business owners who fail to comply with their demands by August 17 will be bombarded with negative reviews and social media posts.
These demands, according to Ahamara Brewster, the leader of the Revolutionary Black Panther Party, who attended the protest in support of the Cuban American community, are “unethical.” (Related: Goya Foods, Red Bull prove companies can RESIST “woke” mobs – who’s next?)
“That’s not how you handle business. If you want help from someone, there’s a way of going about it, being diplomatic about it. But you don’t threaten anybody,” Brewster said.
One business owner, Fernando Martinez, has publicly denounced the letter's demands on Facebook, where he described them as "mafia tactics" used to intimidate business owners.
"There comes a time in life that you have to make a stand and you have to really prove your convictions and what you believe in. All good people need to denounce this. How can you justified (sic) injustice with more injustice?” said Martinez, who operates a restaurant in the area, La Bodeguita de Mima.
According to Martinez, his public denouncement of the letter has led many individuals to harass him, with some even calling him a bigot and a racist.
“How can I be called a bigot and a racist when my family is Black? When my son is gay?” Martinez said in an impassioned speech during the protest, adding that his restaurant is open for anybody who wishes to come in.
"If you're gay, this is your home. If you're Black, this is your home. If you're white, this is your home. If you're human, this is your home," Martinez said after regaling the crowd with his life story.
In his speech, Martinez stressed that the Cuban-American community is not an enemy of the Black Lives Matter movement and its ideals.
"We need to come together as a community. We’re not an enemy of the Black community. We’re all people and we come in all colors," Martinez stated.
Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, however, mentioned on social media that she disagreed with Martinez on several points, primarily his decision to focus on himself.
According to Reynolds, instead of responding to the demands of the group – even in the negative – and affirm their plight, Martinez chose to highlight his own life, adding that she could not understand why he would choose to do so at this specific point in time.
“Some business owners have responded to say, we understand your hurt but we were not part of a gentrification plan. We can’t meet this demand but here you do have a point and we can improve,” Reynolds said, adding that while disagreeing with the strategy employed by the other party is acceptable, organizing against their valid claims isn’t.
“We all must be a part of the solution. While we can appreciate disagreeing with the tactic or strategy – to organize against the sentiment is unacceptable,” Reynolds stated.
Talesha Wilson, the community organizer who helped draft the list of demands sent by the local Black Lives Matter chapter, said the protest organized by Martinez and other Cuban-American business owners was premature and a "temper tantrum that could have been solved by a conversation."
In fact, Wilson said, Martinez’s restaurant, La Bodeguita de Mima, was already given an 'A' grade for racial equity by protesters, adding that she and other community organizers and activists are still going to work with other businesses who are yet to receive a similar grade.
Phelix Crittenden, an activist who works with Black Lives Matter Louisville, also noted that their goal with their letter was not to threaten the city’s business owners, but to bring attention to the displacement of the city's many Black residents after a housing project was demolished during the early 2000s.
The housing project, Crittenden said, was replaced with mixed-income housing, which resulted in only 41 of the original 635 displaced families returning.
Much like Crittenden, Wilson also decried the labeling of their letter, noting that they only classified their goals on the list as such because “gentler language” would have been ignored.
"We are in a society where we have to demand to exist," Wilson said.