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Protest organized to force apology from Just Wing It founder

Written by Merriell Moyer/Lebanon Daily News | Feb 6, 2017 5:45 AM
just_wing_it_protest.jpg

Patricia Steely, who organized a protest demanding Chris Behney issue an apology, speaks to Behney, founder of Just Wing It, speaks to a group of 15 people protested outside of Just Wing It in Annville on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2016 demanding Behney issue an apology after using a racial slur against a Lebanon Valley College student on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2016.(Photo: Jeremy Long, Lebanon Daily News)


(Annville) -- A peaceful protest was organized in an effort to get the founder of the Just Wing It brand to apologize for an alleged racial slur he made to customer Ricky Bugg Jr. on Jan. 22.

"More truth, less lies, Chris Behney, apologize," the group of 15 protesters chanted Sunday while standing near the front of Just Wing It, 18 E. Main St., Annville.

Many motorists passing by honked their horns, and gave the protesters the thumbs up signal, but one passing motorist rolled their window down and shouted, "White power," before speeding away.

Achieving resolution to the incident is what the organizer of the protest, Patricia Steely, a retired special education teacher from Palmyra, said she wanted.

"This was organized mainly in response to the press conference, and I was very disappointed in Chris' lack of ability to self-examine how he handled the situation," Steely said. "I look at it from a conflict resolution point of view that this began as a conflict in the store, and then his inability to deal with it turned it into a full-blown event with racial undertones."

Steely gave a letter she wrote to Behney to the owner of the Annville restaurant, Nikki Meyer, for her to pass on to Behney, Steely said. The letter, which Steely did not have an extra copy of, asked Behney to take responsibility for the incident, as well as to ask him to apologize to the Buggs for the incident, according to Steely.

"I would like Chris to look at himself, and say, 'OK, let's look at what happened. This is how I handled it. What could I have done differently, so that it couldn't have gone to the point where these words came out of my mouth?'" Steely said. "This didn't start out as a racial incident. This started out as a conflict. That conflict could have easily been handled without getting to the point of where it got."

City Councilman Cornell Wilson, who said he was on hand representing himself and not the city, said that he has talked to Behney about an apology.

"I hoped he would make a sincere apology. That's all. But I'm also working with others to do some positive events and initiatives coming up to take this to a more positive, educational level," Wilson said. "Over the next couple of months, there will be more panels and events coming up to go see to make this into a more positive situation."

Wilson thinks Behney will make a private apology to the Buggs, he said.

"I did talk to Chris, and I encouraged him to make an apology, and I think he is willing to do that privately with the Bugg family," Wilson said. "That is between them at this point. I'm just here to say let's make this right."

There has been a foundation started by the Buggs, the Dare 2 Care to Heal Racism Foundation, that will be doing various education activities such as panel discussions, addressing legislation and having positive initiatives with business owners, according to Wilson.

"All of it positive to address the issue, not Just Wing It, but to address the issues of racism, hate and discrimination," Wilson said.

Josh Brady, candidate for mayor of Lebanon, was also there for the protest.

"It is all about standing with the community and showing that racism is not accepted regardless of the manner it is used in," Brady said. "There are a plethora of words that could be used instead of the word that was used, and it is his business ... he could have just asked them to leave, and that could have been the end of it without using a racial slur."

About half an hour after the protest's 4 p.m. start, Behney arrived.

"I just wanted to come here, and apologize for everything that happened that night. I'm very, very sorry," Behney said. "I'm taking responsibility for both parties - for the things that Ricky did, and broke here and how he hit Nikki's eye causing a laceration, and I'm apologizing for repeating back to him and saying that word. If I could take it back, I would not say that word."

After insisting to the protesters that he is not a racist, and that he loves everybody, Behney said he wants to have Ricky Bugg Jr. back to the restaurant.

"I would love to invite him back to our restaurant. I've been getting a lot of giggles on the Internet over my idea to create this Bugg Sauce," Behney said. "The idea I had was to come up with something to commemorate this incident and stand for that. And what we would do at Just Wing It with any proceeds from this Bugg Sauce, we would help the community, we would donate it."

After Behney's speech, Steely told Behney that he is apologizing, but he is deflecting the apology and playing the victim.

"I have never heard you say, 'Yes, I called him a n-word, and that was inappropriate,'" Steely said to Behney.

"Ma'am, you have this story in your head the way you want it to go, and that is not really the way it went," Behney said.

Protestor Hazel Diaz challenged Behney regarding other racial comments he allegedly made in the past according to information she told him she received from some of his employees. Behney again stated he was sorry, but said that Diaz was misinformed.

"I don't think you are (sorry). I think you're sorry that this happened, because you had the opportunity to apologize when the press was there, and you made a statement saying you had no intention of apologizing at that time, so now that we are in front of your business during one of the busiest days of the year, here you are," Diaz said.

Behney insisted that his apology had nothing to do with the Super Bowl, money or business.

"I would love to get together with Ricky. I apologized to his dad, and I gave him a huge hug," he said. "I gave him my phone number, and said I'd like to get together to see how we can make a positive out of this."

Wilson stepped in and reminded Behney that he told him the previous evening that he would have to contact the Bugg's attorney, and that he would give him the attorney's phone number to see if he could meet with Ricky Bugg Jr. to apologize.

After Behney told Wilson he would do so, he went into the restaurant where he stayed throughout the rest of the protest.

On three separate occasions, Behney, throughout the rest of the two-hour protest, opened the front door of the restaurant, and told the protesters that he was calling the police because they were blocking the entrance to the store.

Steely told Behney that she already informed the Annville police that a protest was going to take place, to which Behney responded saying, "I'm calling the state police."

"Personally, as the organizer of this event, I was disappointed," Steely said after the protest. "He is still not taking responsibility. He is just sorry it happened. He just isn't seeing it."

Wilson is holding on to the hope that Behney will do the right thing, he said.

"I hope he reaches out to the lawyer, and I hope he talks to the family to make this right," Wilson said. "I don't know if he was sincere, but he made a first step, I guess."

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the Lebanon Daily News.

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