Over 100 protesters crashed the grand opening of Chick-Fil-A‘s first Canadian restaurant in Toronto on Friday.
The American food chain, which has over 2,300 locations across the U.S., opened a store at Yonge and Bloor Streets a few minutes before protesters marched up with signs condemning the restaurant’s ties to anti-LGBTQ2 groups and beliefs.
The family-run chicken chain drew the ire of the community in 2012, when CEO Dan Cathy, a devout Southern Baptist, was accused of being against same-sex marriage.
Cathy was quoted in an interview with the Baptist Press, saying, “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit.”
The company’s foundation has also donated millions over the years to groups critics call anti-LGBTQ2.
The 519, an organization dedicated to the advocacy for the inclusion of LGBTQ2 communities, along with LiberationTO and animal rights activists, made up the protest and stood outside with signs, photos and chants.
“When we have an increasing global climate and rhetoric around hate-fuelled values, this is about taking a stand against that,” said Jaymie Sampa, the 519’s manager of anti-violence initiatives.
Signs that read, “Chuck-off” and “Freedom for All. Justice for Animals” and chants of “shame” and “Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go,” could be heard coming from the group.
“The destruction of factory farming and oppressed bodies of the chicken are very anti-indigenous. This is not how we respect the land,” said one protester into a megaphone.
Just before noon, several protesters began to stage a “die-in” outside the entrance.
Meanwhile, fans of Chik-Fil-A lined up around the block before opening, hoping to be one of the first to get the newly-available food.
Amanda Luciano was camped out since 10:30 p.m. Thursday in order to try Chick-Fil-A. She told Global News she understands where the protesters are coming from but that it doesn’t bother her.
“This is probably going to be one of my favourite, top spots I’m going to eat,” she said.
In an emailed statement Thursday, the store’s operator, Wilson Yang, told Global News:
“We want all Torontonians to know they are welcome at Chick-fil-A Yonge & Bloor. We respect people’s right to share their opinions. Our focus is on offering a welcoming and respectful environment for our guests and team members and we encourage people to give us a try.”
The email also called the media reports around its donations in 2017 “misleading,” saying the money is focused on programs that benefit kids and education and is not a moral stance.