Protesters ask for "human decency" following recent controversy at Anna's Greek Restaurant in Bowling Green
On Saturday, members of The Bowling Green Freedom Walkers protested for a second time in response to a controversial event hosted by Anna’s Greek Restaurant in downtown Bowling Green. The group marched from Warren County Library to the corner of 12th and State Street, in front of Anna’s Greek Restaurant where a dozen protesters rallied with chants of “say her name” and held signs in protest of the Greek restaurant.
Karika Nelson, the founder of the Freedom Walkers, said the goal of the protest was to keep Breonna Taylor’s name alive and uphold her legacy.
“This is our second protest of Anna’s for allowing the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky to host the event last Monday night with Jonathan Mattingly, for him trying to make profits off of Breonna Taylor’s life,” Nelson said. “So we’re boycotting Anna’s Restaurant.”
The protest was in response to a controversial event hosted at Anna’s Greek Restaurant on Jan. 17 by the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky, which included an appearance by former Louisville Police Officer John Mattingly. The former LMPD officer was involved in the raid that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor in 2020. Mattingly was not charged but remains a divisive figure following the raid.
During the event at Anna’s, video footage of the aftermath of the deadly raid on Taylor’s apartment was shown. The restaurant did not disclose it would be hosting the event to patrons, nor did it close its dining area to the public. As a result, reports emerged that patrons unaffiliated with the group were subjected to audio and video, including audible gunshots, from body camera footage during the raid, which was played during the event.
The Bowling Green Freedom Walkers held a protest in front of the restaurant on January 23 in response to the event. Carlos Bailey, Bowling Green City Commissioner, attended and spoke to protesters at the rally.
Several patrons reached out to Ryan Dearbone, President of the Bowling Green-Warren County chapter of NAACP to voice their concerns, saying they felt uncomfortable due to the nature of the event and the footage being presented. Dearbone spoke with WKU Public Radio about the nature of the controversy. The NAACP of Bowling Green-Warren County is investigating the incident and released a statement following the event.
The Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky had previously planned to host their event along with Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ryan Quarles, at the Bowling Green Country Club. Following community backlash, Quarles canceled his appearance at the event “due to the controversial nature of another speaker at the event”. The Bowling Green Country Club also backed out. The Republican Women’s Club pivoted to find a replacement venue for the event, and Anna’s Greek Restaurant agreed to host the event.
After several days of silence following the event, Anna’s issued a statement apologizing to anyone “who has been emotionally or negatively affected by this controversial event.” Mattingly has also issued an apology to patrons at the restaurant.
According to Nelson, the apology from Anna’s does not feel sincere and does not address the root of the issue.
“You wait a whole week before you give an apology and in the apology, it didn't really name anything about Breonna Taylor,” Nelson said. “Basically it was an apology, to me, trying to save face and to save his business, so people won't boycott him.”
Speaking to WKU Public Radio, Dearbone said he hopes the Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky and representation from Anna’s are willing to cooperate with the local NAACP to explain their side of what happened. He said the investigation will continue regardless of whether or not those groups speak to the NAACP and the results will be presented to the community when it is complete.
The Republican Women’s Club of South Central Kentucky has not responded to requests for comment from WKU Public Radio or issued a public statement at the time of this report.
Nelson said the controversy has only created more division within the community.
“It doesn’t matter if you're left or if you’re right, it's about doing what's right,” Nelson said. “It's about human decency and it’s about not dividing the community. It's about uniting the community whether you're white or Black.”