Racist comment leads to fruitful protest at local business

Bananas lying at the threshold of Old Winston Barber & Style Co.

Racist comment leads to fruitful protest at local business
June 03
15:29 2020

Given the well-documented history of people posting racist comments on social media and losing their livelihood, you would think people would take more precaution when commenting on public posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But that is far from the case. Everyday closet racists expose themselves to the public and their communities on social media and last weekend Michael Berrier, a local barbershop owner, was exposed. 

On Friday, May 29, as protests erupted in cities across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Berrier, who owns Old Winston Barber & Style Co. located downtown, posted a racist comment on a video of a peaceful demonstration. The comment read “Throw some bananas down the street and they’ll run towards them … they like bananas.”

Screenshots of Berrier’s comment spread like wildfire on Friday night and into Saturday. On Saturday evening, protestors gathered outside the barbershop located near the corner of Sixth and Trade Streets.

Although the barbershop was closed, demonstrators decided to leave Berrier a snack – bananas have been piling up outside the barbershop. Officers with the Winston-Salem Police Department patrolling in the area near the barbershop told The Chronicle that people have been dropping off bananas periodically, but it has remained peaceful. 

City native Sara Hines, who organized the protest on Saturday, May 30, said when she woke up to Berrier’s racist comments, she decided to call some of her friends and pay him a visit. Berrier claims that he was hacked and didn’t make the comment, but Hines and others say that is a lie. “There were comments long after the post went up, so he wasn’t hacked,” Hines said. 

“We’re dealing with lies from him and I’m dealing in facts and my fact is this … racists are coming out of the woodwork. All of a sudden racists have a license to appear, no hood needed anymore. They are our business owners, our cops, our judges.”

The pile of bananas was removed from the entrance early Monday morning, but a fresh batch including a few with “RACIST” written on them with a permanent marker filled the sidewalk late Monday evening. 

 While putting out a plastic bag full of bananas, Tina Batson said, “Happy to help.”

On Tuesday morning, more than two dozen people gathered outside the barbershop to send a message to Berrier and others like him. For more than three hours, demonstrators stood outside the barbershop. Local activist Larry Barron, who organized the protest, also took a moment to address protestors who damaged the business next door to the barbershop. Salem Organic Supply, a store that sells natural hemp and CBD products, had its window shot out over the weekend. Painted on the wood covering the broken window are the words “One Love.” Owners say they did it to show they stand with the community.

“I don’t support who did that, I don’t support anything negative that’s going to cause a negative ripple in my community,” Barron said. “To know what they stand for and to know all the work that they do out here in the community, it’s a slap in the face to the work that they do, just like the work that I do.”

Barron encouraged the crowd to remember what they are fighting for and continue the push. While looking out over the crowd of diverse protestors, black, white, young, and old, Barron said, “This is what power is. This is power.” 

According to other tenants in the building, Berrier has been evicted. Attempts to reach Berrier were unsuccessful at the time of publication.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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