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Hundreds turn out to support Chick-fil-A
At Liberty Fair Mall
Hundreds of people stood in line in the center court of Liberty Fair Mall at mid-day Wednesday to show support for the Chick-fil-A restaurant there. Crowds continued throughout the day. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
Many of the hundreds of people at the Chick-fil-A in Martinsville on Wednesday said they were there to support the restaurant and its right to express its opinions.
“I don’t stand in lines normally. I spent 20 years in the Navy, and I don’t stand in lines. But, I will for this,” Steve Metcalf said while waiting in line to place his lunch order at Chick-fil-A.
In a statement that has since drawn both support and criticism, Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy recently said that he believes in “the biblical definition of the family unit.” That prompted calls to boycott or protest the restaurants nationwide.
In response to the criticism, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee organized Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on Wednesday. He has said the event was not about gay marriage, as some people have said, but about free speech and religious liberty.
Shortly after noon Wednesday, hundreds of people lined up at Chick-fil-A in Liberty Fair Mall in Martinsville. The line wound around the center court area outside the restaurant and down one wing of the mall. There did not appear to be any protesters in the crowd.
Some people said they were there to support Cathy’s comments on marriage; others said they were there to support his right to express his opinion. Many said they were there to show support for both.
Metcalf, of Spencer, attended the event with his wife, Judy, and their grandson, Tyler Ford, 13, of Florida.
“People can have their own beliefs. They can believe what they want,” Ford said, explaining that right applies to everyone.
Steve Metcalf said his participation in the appreciation day was a statement.
“It says that anybody can have their own beliefs, but we don’t have to put up with somebody else being intolerant as they claim tolerance,” said Metcalf as he patiently waited near the back of the line in the mall. “I’m astounded. Happily astounded” at the show of support for Chick-fil-A, he added.
Norine Buffkin of Martinsville had spent 20 minutes in line and was determined to wait as long as it took to get her food.
“It’s important to make a stand against gay marriage. More people need to do it. I think we’ve made a point today” with the show of support for Cathy, Buffkin said.
Curtis Hatcher of Bassett said he went to the restaurant “to support Chick-fil-A’s decision. I’d have been surprised” if fewer people turned out, he added.
Janet Tredway and her husband Guerrant Tredway traveled to Martinsville from Stoneville, N.C., to support Chick-fil-A “and also to take a stand against gay marriage,” Janet Tredway said.
“I wouldn’t have missed this,” Guerrant Tredway said. He added they told many others about the appreciation day and encouraged others to participate.
Still, “I am a little surprised there are this many” at the restaurant, Janet Tredway said. “I’m glad to see it, though.”
Benny and Patricia Dodson of Martinsville took their turn at the end of the line — but only briefly, as many others filed in behind them.
“We support Chick-fil-A and Mr. Cathy, and we support the idea that marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Benny Dodson, pastor of a church at the corner of Chatham and Mt. Olivet Road.
Same-sex marriage, he said, is not biblical. On Sunday, as well as mid-last week, he said he encouraged his congregation to attend the appreciation day on Wednesday. He anticipates the event also will be part of his sermon this Sunday.
“This same-sex marriage deal ... I’m against it,” said J.D. Cole of Bassett. “I think the morality of the country has fallen so bad that we need to start standing up, but I did not expect it would be as many” supporters as there were at the mall.
“This is really uplifting. I’m glad to see it,” Cole said.
W.C. Fowlkes, who is chairman of the Henry County GOP Committee, was among those leading songs such as “God Bless America,” “America The Beautiful,” “The Star Spangled Banner” and gospel songs outside the restaurant.
Fowlkes said he arrived at Chick-fil-A around 11 a.m. and was among the first in line. The dining area inside the eatery “was pretty much full” at the time. Since then, “it has been consistent” with a “pretty deep” and long line of customers waiting to order.
Fowlkes said he hopes the “good show of support isn’t just a one-day thing,” and he does not believe the restaurant discriminated against any person or any group with Cathy’s remarks.
“We all have different beliefs. I think it is indicative by the show of support that a lot of people feel the same,” Fowlkes said.
He also anticipates the interest in human rights and other issues will mean heavy turnout at polling places in November.
“People are educating themselves on the issues, and they also know their own rights are being stepped on and pushed back,” Fowlkes said. “I think everybody realizes” it’s their responsibility to make a stand.
Ann Wilson drove to Martinsville from Eden, N.C., “because I felt a need to support” Chick-fil-A.
Yvonne Utt of Spencer just stopped by to get a sandwich, but she started asking questions when she saw the line of people. Even though someone offered to let her get in front of them in line, Utt said she went to the back of the line to wait her turn.
“I don’t mind waiting,” she said. “This is important.”
After waiting an hour to order their food, Robert Lawrence and Doug Lawrence started to eat.
“It was time well spent,” Robert Lawrence said, as Doug Lawrence left his plate to join in as the patriotic songs began again.
“We didn’t come so much for the food” anyway, he said. “It mainly was (for) the cause.” The large turnout is proof “that people aren’t liking the way some people want to carry this country.”
The crowds continued throughout the afternoon and early evening.
Restaurant officials in Martinsville could not be reached for comment.