In One New Orleans Suburb, Support for Chick-fil-A—and Free Speech

The Chick-fil-A in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, was a mob scene yesterday afternoon. The owner-operator Tom Maloney was expecting a crowd, but the turnout exceeded his expectations. Cars lined up to get into the parking lot and drive-thru, causing a traffic jam on Veterans Highway out front.

The show of support followed a controversy that began when the president of the fast-food chain, Dan Cathy, stated that Chick-fil-A believed in "the biblical definition of the family unit." His stance sparked reactions from the mayors of Chicago and Boston, who said they would block new franchises from opening in their cities. This Friday, August 3, gay marriage activists will stage kiss-ins at Chick-fil-As around the country. Meanwhile, at the urging of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, yesterday was declared Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. (Chick-fil-A has seen a drop in its sales, and an organized boycott, since the controversy began.)

At some chains, there were both supporters and protesters, but in Metairie, I found only supporters. Many, including two nuns I met, had never eaten at the chain before but had come to show their support. Another visitor, Don Johnson, said he was alarmed at how Americans are losing ability to speak freely; by supporting Dan Cathy, he said, he was standing up for freedom.

Meanwhile, Tom Maloney, the franchise owner, broke a sweat helping the police direct traffic. He only hoped he had enough chicken on hand to feed the crowd.

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Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

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