CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Protesters stood outside the Rogue Barber Co. in opposition to its “membership only” policy that some claim is discriminatory.
The company’s application requires clients not to be members of “black lives matter,” white supremacist groups, or antifa. The owner says he’s doing it to protect his business against violence. But the people who came to the protest believe his stance is racist.
The barbershop closed early Friday afternoon before protesters lined up on the street outside of it. Justin Hendrix was one of them. He said, “Be respectful to everyone around you that are bettering your business. If we’re a community and we’re here for you, then be here for us as well.”
The controversy started online centering on the company’s “membership only” policy. While the owner would not provide a copy of the application he says there’s a clause that, in his words, requires people not to be a member of any extremist groups including but not limited to BLM, white supremacist groups, or antifa.
The protesters, who support BLM, believe this is racist. Hendrix said, “In his application process, he’s stating organizations as extremists and terrorists and murderers and rapists. That’s not appropriate. Your vetting process is already based upon a hierarchy of being discriminatory.” Marcey Goldstein was also at the protest and said, “He is devaluing the “black lives matter” movement.”
The owner, Michael Long, would not go on camera for an interview, but says he’s read about people claiming to be members of “black lives matter” and white supremacist groups involved in recent crime, murder, and also violence against police officers. He says he doesn’t want to put his customers or employees in jeopardy of harm. He recognized that not all “black lives matter” supporters are violent. He says he accepts customers of all races but is denying service to anybody who is a member of BLM or white supremacist groups as a precaution for his safety. He doesn’t believe it’s any more discriminatory than people protesting against collective police forces because one officer committed a violent crime.
But the protesters strongly disagreed with that. Hendrix said, “Let’s not do that, if we’re going to state the facts let’s state the facts here. If there are people that are doing things that are wrong in these initiatives, they are removed. We here are not “black lives matter” as far as an organization. But we stand for black lives because we are black people that are out here making a difference for change.”
The protesters wanted to make it clear that they stand for peace and equality of all races. They said anybody who starts violence is not a part of the true “black lives matter” movement.