Image via Getty
An Atlanta gas station owner is selling his business after being caught up in a local controversy over the racist treatment of customers in his store.
Beginning in mid-October, organizers protested outside of the ExxonMobil station for 66 consecutive days.
“We sent a clear message that we will no longer tolerate disrespect,” organizer Joe Jones told CBS46.
According to CBS46, the demonstrations began after one of the gas station’s clerks was captured on video saying, “I don’t give a [expletive] about the Black neighborhood.”
After the footage sparked backlash, the store’s owner Rahim Sivji apologized and fired the clerk. But Jones and others continued protesting against repeated racist behavior by the store’s employees and owner. These include an incident where one Black man was allegedly called a “food stamp cockroach” and another a “begging monkey” by Sivji, according to an earlier report.
“We have to understand our power, the power of dollar, the power of Black economics and we have to be intentional with our spending,” Jones said. “It is a privilege to get Black dollars.”
With no end to the protests in sight, Sivji put up the gas station for sale, giving Jones the option to buy it.
“It got to the point where I’m thinking if I have to save my life or my store, I say the hell with my store, I want to save my life,” Sivji told CBS46, after he reportedly lost more than 70 percent of revenue as a result of the demonstrations. “That’s what’s important to me.”
When footage of the clerk first made waves, ExxonMobil’s corporate office released a statement admonishing Sivji’s store.
“ExxonMobil does not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment by any company representative. ExxonMobil’s global policies promote diversity and inclusion and prohibit any form of discrimination or harassment in any company workplace, anywhere in the world,” the statement read. “ExxonMobil does not own or operate any retail fuels stations in the United States, but we are aware of the situation and take these matters very seriously.”
The protests have ceased now that the business is on the market, and Jones created a GoFundMe to raise money for purchasing the store.
“This was an effective boycott that led to tangible results,” Jones said. “This is the perfect opportunity to take this situation and try to promote a situation of Black ownership.”