A Chinese restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, was forced to close after its owner, a white man, was identified as a supporter of ex-KKK leader David Duke.
Lynda Carson, an investigative reporter for Indybay, a self-described “independent media center” based in San Francisco, published an article earlier this month identifying several individuals in the Bay Area who supported Duke via donations to his 2016 Louisiana campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Among those listed was Roger Grigsby, owner of O’mei in Santa Cruz, who reportedly donated $500 to Duke’s campaign, according to public records obtained by Indybay.
Grigsby was forced to shut down his restaurant, which has served Szechuan cuisine for 38 years, after employees and customers began a boycott, according to San Francisco TV news station KPIX 5.
A sign posted at the closed restaurant says: “O’mei has come under attack. Slanderous and malicious internet rumors concerning this business, its owner and staff have forced us to close for now.”
Carson of Indybay said her organization decided to identify Duke’s supporters in Santa Cruz, a place known as a liberal college town, after he expressed his appreciation for President Donald Trump’s response to the violence at the white supremacy rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“Some have suggested that the best way to fight back against all the hate being spread around by the Trump regime, the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists, is by exposing the supporters of hate and violence, in the good old U.S.A.,” Carson wrote.
“One place to start exposing the supporters of hate would be to expose some of the local supporters of David Duke who reside in the Bay Area,” the Indybay reporter added.
Grigsby said he has been unfairly targeted and called a white supremacist, neo-Nazi and a member of the KKK, all because he supported Duke, a prominent white nationalist and Holocaust denier who was grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the late ’70s. His Senate campaign hinged on “European American” rights and included ending what he called the “ethnic cleansing” of white America.
In response to accusations of racism, Grigsby told The Mercury News, “My girlfriend and my former wife were both Chinese. Anybody who knows me, it’s like the United Colors of Benetton in our restaurant. We’ve had every ethnicity.”
If Indybay wanted to turn people against Grigsby for his support of Duke, it apparently worked.
Grigsby told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that several of his employees quit after news spread of his donation to Duke. Local customers, many of whom claim to be loyal patrons, publicly denounced Grigsby and vowed to never eat at his restaurant again.
“You can’t put sauce over white supremacy,” Noel B. Murphy on Facebook wrote in a post directed at Grigsby. “Was it my money you sent to a terrorist organization? You helped fund the atrocities that are tearing our country apart. That evil you were playing with just cost you everything.”
While many were disappointed in Grigsby’s support for Duke, some residents didn’t see why boycotters had to judge Grigsby’s restaurant based on his political views.
“I think it’s unfortunate that he gave money to Duke, but so what? Lots of people do. And it’s not exactly a crime,” Anthony Thomas, a Santa Cruz local, told ABC 7 News. “I think it’s unfortunate, I think it’s immoral, but I will still eat here.
Grigsby said in an email to KPIX 5 that he believed the backlash from his outing as a Duke supporter is just “a token in a much larger process of terrorizing white European Americans into silence in what has come to be known as the ‘war on whites.’”
He added, “My campaign contribution was to one of the men supporting European American civil rights.”
Amid the outrage, Grigsby continued to defend Duke and his support for the former KKK leader, claiming that he’s “defending the civil rights of European-Americans, whites, defending them from attacks against them.”
“If you can’t see that in the media, I don’t know what to tell you,” Grigsby told The Mercury News.
“The very word ‘white supremacist’ is an attack,” the business owner added. “Nobody calls Mexicans and blacks and Chinese ‘Nazis.’ They only call white people ‘Nazis.’ The idea there is to make guilt by association of two words. White people and evil Nazis.”
Still, Robert Singleton, executive director of the Santa Cruz Business Council, thinks that patrons have a right to support businesses that align with their morals and values.
“Individuals have the right to make politically poor choices but they will bear the repercussions of those poor choices, especially if they’re making a public stance or giving money toward a public figure,” Singleton told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. O’mei is not a member of the SCBC.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.