Activists Protest The Ivy Restaurant Over HIV Discrimination
4/13/2012 11:00:00 AM
By Alex Garner
On Thursday April 12, a group of about 30 community activists marched in front of the world famous Ivy restaurant to protest the recent firing of an HIV positive employee. A coalition of community organizations, including The Wall/Las Memorias, The Latino Equality Alliance, The Venice Family Clinic and the APAIT Health Center, organized the rally as a show of support for workers living with HIV.
Last month The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund filed suit against The Ivy alleging they discriminated against a former employee, Reymundo Martinez, for being HIV Positive. Martinez claims he required special accommodations due to the harsh side effects of his HIV medications and when he asked The Ivy to provide them he was fired.
Before the protest began I had a chance to speak with Richard Irving, the owner of The Ivy. He maintains, “We didn’t know Martinez had HIV when he was an employee.”
The group of activist marched in front of The Ivy for nearly 20 minutes chanting, “The Ivy Restaurant discriminates against HIV positive workers.” Following the march a press conference was held and the speakers included Richard Zaldivar, executive director of The Wall/Las Memorias, Eddie Martinez, Associate Director of The Wall/Las Memorias and Co-Chair of The Latino Equality Alliance, and Xavier Mejia, a community activist and person living with HIV.
I asked if they were calling for a boycott of The Ivy and Eddie Martinez replied, “As a coalition of organizations we have not called for a boycott but as an activist I have called for a boycott and will encourage others to do so using social media.”
I spoke with Eddie Martinez about what promoted the coalition to organize this protest. He asserted, “I saw the silence coming from some of the Westside groups. I don’t know what they’ve done but I haven’t seen anything. Because of the silence I think it’s important that other AIDS and people of color organizations fight for marginalized workers.”
I inquired about AIDS Healthcare’s involvement as they have been leading a boycott of Hershey’s Chocolate due to a case of HIV discrimination at the Milton Hershey School. Martinez said, “An invitation was extended to AHF to participate but we got no response.”
The rally was loud but peaceful and the protesters called on the community of Los Angeles to stand in solidarity with workers to send a message that HIV discrimination is illegal and will not be tolerated. The activists marched and held signs but also engaged with many pedestrians about why they were out protesting. People were dismayed to hear that The Ivy had been accused of such discrimination.
Organizers plan to continue the protests and will be hosting a candle light vigil in front of The Ivy next week. They also plan to take their protest to Twitter and Facebook to raise awareness about HIV discrimination and stigma and to rally further support.
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