A black veteran says that he was refused a free Veteran’s Day meal at Chilli’s after a man wearing a Trump shirt called his military service into question.
On Friday, Ernest Walker visited a Chilli’s in Cedar Hill, Texas, planning to partake in the chain’s offer of a free meal for military veterans, CBS 11 reports.
Walker says everything was normal as he ordered his food. Then, he was approached by a man who questioned his military service.
“I was approached by an old white guy, maybe in his 70s, with a Trump shirt, at Chilli’s on Veteran’s Day yesterday… He said he was in Germany, and that they did not let Blacks serve over there,” Walker wrote in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Walker told Dallas News he was stationed in Hawaii in the 25th Infantry Division during the late 1980s. Black soldiers have fought in every American war since the Revolutionary War, including World War II, though often in segregated units.
Walker said that as he prepared to leave with a to-go box of food, he was approached by the Chilli’s manager, Wesley Patrick. Walker said Patrick told him that another customer had reported he was not a real veteran, and that his dog, who was with him at the restaurant, was not an actual service dog.
“At this point I was grossly offended embarrassed dehumanized and started [r]ecording,” Walker, whose name on Facebook is Ernest Blackbatman, wrote in a post accompanying a video that he recorded. “Mr. Wesley snatched my food away, made body contact.”
In the video, Patrick repeatedly tells Walker he needs to leave, eventually taking away his to-go box of food.
Walker said in another Facebook post that he joined the military when he was only 16 years old, at a time when he was homeless and sleeping behind a Kroger.
Over the weekend, Walker’s Facebook post was shared more than 5,000 times. Chilli’s Facebook and Twitter accounts were flooded with criticism.
“You allow racism among your management staff? I find it hard to believe that your executives would be ok with this behaviour,” one comment reads. “I love your restaurants, I’ve dined at dozens and dozens of your locations. Now please… so people feel safe next time they eat at a Chillis.”
— S. Maxx Mahaffey (@smaxxmahaffey) November 14, 2016
.@Chillis 1) Have you apologised to this vet?
2) Has this employee been disciplined?
3) What training are you planning to avoid this again?
— Gabe Ortíz (@TUSK81) November 13, 2016
“I will certainly not be dining at Chilli’s Grill and Bar while they remain silent on hiring racist or bigoted staff who assault African-American veterans,” reads another.
Chilli’s has said on social media that its parent company, Brinker International, is working to address the issue. Brinker International did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
According to CBS 11, Walker and his attorney are planning on meeting with representatives from Brinker International on Monday.
Walker’s attorney says that a Brinker attorney apologised to her on behalf of the company.
The company has not yet issued a public apology to Walker beyond stating on Facebook: “Our goal is to make every guest feel special. Unfortunately, we fell short on a day that we strive to honour our Veterans and active military for their service.”
The US has seen a rise in racially-motivated attacks following the election of Donald Trump on Tuesday. Representatives from two organisations that track hate crimes, the Southern Povery Law Center and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told USA Today that they have seen a much larger number of people reporting hate crimes than is typical since the general election.
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