More than a dozen protesters picketed outside Atticus Bookstore and Café on Chapel Street on Saturday, demanding a boycott of the eatery unless its management reverses its policy requiring employees to speak only English within customers’ earshot.
In response, Atticus manager Jean Marcel Recapet came outside and read a statement, saying Atticus is proud of the diversity of its employees and customers. He did not comment on the future of the controversial policy.
Speaking after Recapet, Eloy Lira, a Hispanic employee who has worked at Atticus for 13 years, said Atticus is “like my second home” and offers him and the other employees benefits such as health insurance and English lessons.
But Deborah Malatesta of the New Haven Workers Association said community leaders are not backing off and are considering legal action.
The protestors said they think the policy discriminates against minorities. They tried to convince people entering and passing by the café that the policy is unjust.
“We didn’t expect this sort of behavior from a business that has ‘Censorship Causes Blindness’ printed on the back of its company T-shirt,” the leaflets stated. The leaflets were also printed with Atticus’s controversial language policy, which begins “Here we speak English.”
Malatetsta, who sent a widely circulated e-mail Wednesday denouncing the policy, said the store’s statement was disappointing. She said the store has yet to provide any real information or say anything of substance about the policy. As for Lira’s support for Atticus’ management, Malatetsa said it was telling that the assistant manager accompanied Lira outside.
Malatesta said she will meet this week with Ward 15 Alderman Joseph Rodriguez, who is also condemning Atticus’s policy, and that the workers association will discuss possible legal action against the café at its Tuesday meeting. The protests are going national, she said, explaining that an association member will be speaking against Atticus’s policy on the Fox News television program “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday morning.
It remains to be seen whether the protests have hurt Atticus’s business. Atticus’s management declined to comment beyond its issued statement, but a sign that now hangs in the store reads: “We stand behind Charlie and Atticus” in both English and Spanish, referring to Atticus owner Charles Negaro.
The Facebook Group “Ex-Customers of Atticus Books” was created Jan. 22 and had 26 members as of press time, none of whom were Yale students.