Tension rises after racial slur at restaurant

Local NAACP leader visits business, calls for all to stop using epithets.

The Springfield NAACP president is calling for people to stop using racial slurs after an altercation escalated inside a local restaurant and a woman used an epithet in an argument with two black men.

The altercation was widely discussed on social media and caught the attention of Denise Williams, president of the local NAACP, who attempted to defuse the matter after reading about the incident on Facebook last week.

“The use of that N-word, we cannot afford that in this community. I’m trying so hard to bridge the gap in our community and try to help deter racial tension in our community. But when you continue using this N-word, it’s making it difficult,” Williams said.

The incident occurred on Thursday when the two men entered Mobil Dogs, 10 W. Main St. The restaurant owner, Jeff Wade, who is white, said the men threatened him and his family.

“I had two guys come in and threaten us, and one of them tried to swing on my girlfriend,” Wade said, “and when (they) did, she called them the N-word, and now they’re saying we’re racist, and it’s nothing like that.”

Both sides used racial slurs during the incident, those involved said. Friday on Facebook, Wade apologized for the incident.

“I have ran a great business for the past 7 years, and I have to honestly say that the black community has supported me just as much as everyone else and a situation occurred in my place, and words were said that should not have been said out of anger or whatever. It should not have been said. I cannot begin to tell you all how sorry I am for the actions caused by any employee in my establishment,” Wade wrote.

Wade said he has been followed and continues to receive threats from people angry about the use of the slur. Wade said the altercation on Thursday stems from an incident earlier this year involving a woman who was charged with assault after allegedly striking Wade’s girlfriend’s mother with a beer bottle.

Wade said he is afraid.

The altercation was posted on Facebook by Josh Perrin, who said he overheard the woman utter the slur while eating at the restaurant.

“… When you get upset to the point where you start calling the black people the N-word, that just shows who you really are inside,” Perrin said.

Perrin, who is a business owner and is of mixed race, said he wanted to spread the word about the incident at a place where a lot of his friends eat and spend their money.

He said the doors of a business should be opened to all people, regardless of race.

“For him to talk to you and refer to you as a (racial slur) is just a loss for words really,” Perrin said.

Perrin said he read Wade’s apology on Facebook, but he said a verbal apology would be more acceptable.

Williams said the incident could have potentially caused a serious problem in the city.

She went to the restaurant to defuse anger brewing in the community about the incident, but said she called deputies to the scene after discussions between Wade and Williams became heated and what she described as rude and unpleasant.

“He admitted it did happen. They did use that. He apologized, not to me, but he apologized over and over on Facebook,” Williams said. “… But for him to continue to apologize over and over after my meeting with him, I’ve got to say I accept his apology to the community.”

Williams praised Wade’s restaurant for its good food and added that she is not calling for residents to boycott Mobil Dogs as Wade seems to be remorseful.

But she said racial slurs cannot be tolerated within the community on either side.

“I don’t care what the situation is. We have to get away from that,” Williams said.

Williams called Sheriff Gene Kelly on Friday, and Kelly then asked Springfield police to respond to the incident, sheriff’s officials confirmed. Springfield police, however, have no record of the incident.

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