Nationwide Nurse-ins Planned at Denny’s Restaurants over Asheville, North Carolina Incident

Crystal Everitt was breastfeeding her 1-year-old son in a Denny’s restaurant when she was asked by a manager to cover up. When Everitt declined to do so, the police were called and she was told that she would have to leave or be arrested for trespassing. The Denny’s in question is in Asheville, North Carolina. The manager told the Asheville Citizen-Times:

In this particular case, this guest was exposed in a manner that was causing discomfort toward other guests to the point of them complaining to management and leaving the restaurant.

The manager clearly needs an education in the North Carolina indecent exposure law, which provides:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breast feed in any public or private location where she is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered during or incidental to the breast feeding.

Got that? “… irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother’s breast is uncovered….” Interesting how over and over companies seem to think they do not have to comply with the law if doing so makes other customers uncomfortable. One would hope they would learn a lesson from the national nurse-ins at Applebee’s and the like.

Unfortunately, it seems that the North Carolina law suffers from the same loophole that Texas law does. There is no enforcement provision, and it can be argued that the trespassing law trumps the breastfeeding law. Watch the local news coverage to hear the explanation from the local police (it’s quite a detailed piece and I am impressed the incident got such extensive coverage!) At any rate a breastfeeding mother cannot afford to challenge the police officer in the moment, because as Everitt said, she could hardly breastfeed her child from jail!

Now Everitt seeks an apology from Denny’s. If she receives such apology, she will meet with other nursing mothers and activists at the Denny’s in question for a meal. If not, a breastfeeding rally will be held outside the restaurant and at other Denny’s locations around the nation.

When: Sunday, February 22, 2009
1 p.m.

Where: Denny’s restaurants nationwide, and at the Asheville, NC Denny’s in particular at
675 Patton Ave
Asheville, NC 28806

To participate and receive updates on the plans: Join the Yahoo discussion group formed for the nurse-ins

Your thoughts?

Leave a comment!

Photo credit: gnr

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    • Jenny

      I just wrote a post on this, too. What makes me so mad is that they have a SMOKING section at that restaurant. Yeah. So people can blow their disgusting smoke all over the babies, but said babies have no right to eat!

      My question is, if you can kick a woman out for breastfeeding when she was not breaking any law or doing anything wrong, can you kick out other people for no reason as well? What would happen if Denny’s began refusing service to people because of their race? I’m sure racist people eat there, but you can’t just kick out customers because other customers don’t like them!

    • tanya@motherwearblog

      Doesn’t the “notwithstanding any other provision of law” phrase mean that it trumps the trespassing statute?

    • Dulcita Love

      I posted this on : “Result of mom asked to leave Denny’s for breastfeeding: Nationwide Nurse-ins at Denny’s Restaurants Feb 22nd:

      I get a little nervous when someone can decide who gets to ride the bus and which shade is too grey based on cultural “norms”.

      Will we look back in 20 years and think Rosa Parks?

    • Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

      Tanya, I think that the “notwithstanding any other provision of the law” phrase means notwithstanding the rest of the indecent exposure law that says a person is guilty of a misdemeanor if she exposes her private parts, a breastfeeding mother can expose her nipple and not be guilty of a misdemeanor.

    • Pam

      Oh pulleeze, ladies! I agree with feeding our kids, but don’t bring your 18 month old kid to the local restaurant suckling! The mother in my opinion was doing this for attention.

    • tanya@motherwearblog

      I’m pretty sure that the “notwithstanding” phrase means any other provision of state law. Jake Marcus discussed that phrase a bit in the podcast interview I did with her.

    • Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

      Tanya, yes that is literally what it says and that is certainly what I would argue, but that’s not how it’s being interpreted by the police. They can enforce the trespass law by arresting someone who does not leave a private establishment when asked, but there’s no mechanism to enforce the breastfeeding provision. I suppose one argument that a woman could make if she were arrested for trespass is that the officer should have “enforced” the breastfeeding provision by not arresting her for trespass, or putting it another way, that she was not trespassing because the breastfeeding law allows her to breastfeed where she was otherwise authorized to be. Somehow there needs to be a ruling that clarifies the interaction of the two laws, or new breastfeeding protection legislation or an amendment to the existing law needs to be passed to include an enforcement provision.

    • MomOnTheGo

      There are so few places here in Ontario that allow smoking (even covered patios outside smoke-free restaurants have to be smoke-free) that I was especially nodding at the smoking versus “scandalous breastfeeding” comparison. As for Pam, nurslings, regardless of age, have a right to nurse when they need food or comfort. I am far more bothered by unhappy/hungry children whose mothers don’t attend to their needs. Bothered but sympathetic. Usually I think, “thank goodness I still had the magic milk to offer when my little one needed it.”

    • Rovacop

      Please let us know whether Crystal Everitt receives an apology from Denny’s. I, and I hope many others, will not be returning to Denny’s unless she receives an apology.

    • katherine white

      I breastfeed, and breastfeed in public, but why are some women so militant that they refuse to even try to be somewhat modest about it? Yes, the law is on her side, but her baby is a year old, I’d say most people wouldn’t even know if I were breastfeeding my 11 month old, unless they were purposely staring at me trying to figure out what I’m doing. Let’s everyone be real, breasts are baby’s best food, but also boys’ favorite toys. Be kind.

    • Jake Aryeh Marcus

      Hi Angela and Tanya :)

      I should probably blog about this myself ;) but I am feeling really frustrated that this mom is calling for a nationwide nurse-in before filing a complaint with the police (to seek official clarification of the grounds on which this officer would have made a trespass arrest) or found out which corporate entity even owns this Denny’s. Is this going to be another Applebee’s nurse-in where people are protesting outside restaurants owned by different entities, many of which said they supported breastfeeding in their restaurants? What political message does that send?

      The “notwithstanding” clause should prevent trespass arrests but we won’t know until someone presents a court challenge. Of course, this is likely to mean someone will need to be charged with trespass. However I wonder if a NC lawyer might be able to figure out a way to seek injunctive relief or a declaratory judgment so this law can be interpreted once and for all without a mother going to jail first.

    • Jill

      I think some people are making very good points here and I am saddened that the breastfeeding woman’s rights were so violated by the restaurant and by the police.

    • Brian

      Good grief, women! Sometimes people don’t want to see breasts while they eat. Just because your baby does, doesn’t mean that all should. Regardless of the reason, an exposed breast or breast exposed enough IS graphic to some people. Little children, as a consequence of breastfeeding, must also do the natural body function of evacuating or defecating. Should that be seen while eating as well? Sadly, people like me will continue to ask you to cover yourself up, since you lack the social skills to do it yourself. And way to go announcing when you will be doing your “nurse-in”. Every pervert in a three county area will be there to watch you celebrate such a natural part of womanhood. Breastfeeding is great; all six of my children were breastfed. But when it wasn’t done at home; at least a light blanket was there to make it more modest.

    • Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

      @ everyone — From the moderator: per the comments policy, I’ve edited out any name calling or replies to it. Sorry I didn’t do that sooner!

      @ Jake — I was hoping you would comment Jake! Thanks for your insight.

    • MomOnTheGo

      Am I alone in wondering how exactly Brian found this thread? Welcome, a discussion is better than not knowing about the issue. Modesty is a cultural norm – sometimes it requires a burkha, sometimes a long skirt that doesn’t show the ankles and sometimes it just means a girl’s belly button mustn’t be visible at elementary school. Mostly it is judgements against women and girls and constraining our bodies constrains our lives and our ability to be and do what we believe to be right. Thank goodness such things as modesty can change when people do.

    • cayo

      Has anyone ever offered the breast at home before going out only to have the baby refuse and then ask to nurse 5 minutes after you get somewhere? Has anyone ever been out with their family and the outing becomes prolonged necessitating nursing outside the home? Has anyone ever fed a child at home minutes before leaving only to have a hungry, growing babe ask to nurse again as soon as you get somewhere?
      My point is that nursing only at home is not an option for many. Also lets not forget that this women was a customer at Denny’s- purchasing their product and was only asked to leave after she had “offended” someone. For all those for whom this has religious “Christian” foundations in ideas of purity and what is acceptable for women I ask you this- What did Jesus eat?


    • Ashley

      With all the issues that has come up in the past I’m surprised we’re still having problems. Even before I had a baby I was a waitress and had multiple mothers be nursing their babies and was totally fine. Hopefully people will grow more if not better details to help prevent issues like this in the future.
      To the people who ask to put a blanket over… have you tried to eat under a warm blanket? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to again, plus some babies will just keep pulling the blanket off anyways. Most places are in booths so if you see someone nursing it’s because you choose to. And about modesty, they use sex and nudity to advertise EVERYTHING, yet a few inches of skin during the nourishment and comfort to a baby is uncomfortable?
      I am a mother who still breastfeeds a 2 1/2 yr old and will continue until my child decides she’s ready. And we do not care what others think or say.

    • Jennifer B

      I totally support moms who breastfeed in public, and wished I had done it more often (a lot of family pressure not to breastfeed at all, much less in public). Anyway, I have to say that I personally might have been a little uncomfortable sitting near a woman nursing with her entire breast exposed, because that is how this woman was nursing in the news video that I watched. She pulled her breast out from the top of her shirt, not under it as most moms I know do. It wasn’t just a “few inches” of skin. I don’t think that breastfeeding breaks any modesty laws, but to ME, PERSONALLY, I MIGHT have been alittle weirded out by that. I think this makes this case a little different than your “usual” breastfeeding complaint story. I have nursed my daughter in a Pizza Hut and no one even knew because my shirt covered most of my breast (not my daughter). Anyway, just my two cents, oh, and I totally agree with Jake, the nurse-in is a little premature in my opinion.

    • Adrienne

      I think that she could probably find a civil rights lawyer that would work pro bono for her if she looks hard enough. We need to bring this into the spotlight and make it the social norm. I’m sorry, but even if her shirt was completely off, if baby was latched on, due to the size of him, you wouldn’t be able to see anything. My son is 12 mos and you can’t see anything when he’s latched on, and my 30mos old drapes over my chest when he nurses on occasion. If anything else comes of this I would like to see an enforcement clause added to this law because the same thing has happened in my state of SC. I plan on being at the protest with bells on.

    • Jake Aryeh Marcus

      Sadly, pro bono lawyers willing to take breastfeeding cases are few and far between. :( I have hit a brick wall looking for them is other cases. But I haven’t read that Everitt is looking for one.

      This case could be a rallying cry for new legislation in NC. What a great use of a bad situation that would be.

      Also, I think it is important that we stop participating in “discretion” discussions. Her legal status is unchanged by whether she stripped to the waist or was entirely out of view.

    • Adrienne

      I totally agree jake. She is a friend of mine on a mothering networking site and we were speaking this morning on instant messenger. She was wondering how to see the surveilance videos. I told her to the best of my knowledge she would need a supeaona. Do you know any other ways?

    • Kristin

      I think this whole thing is just ridiculous, especially the ‘consideration’ for other customers, why don’t they mind their own business? I’ve had to sit near people chewing too loudly, coughing, smoking, cursing, how is that not as bad as the baby’s food showing?

      Brian, should I tell all those nasty old men that fart, cough and curse in restaurant’s to stop because I don’t want to see that? Should I call the police to see what the law is around them being disgusting?

      Seriously, this is the babies FOOD period, it just sickens me that so many men AND women seem to have a problem with babies eating in public, or feel that they have the right to say ‘how’ the baby can eat in public. I see telling a woman to cover up as being equivalent to me telling someone that they need to use a smaller spoon because they are smacking their lips too much.


    • RJA

      Oh my goodness… She was not asked to LEAVE, she was asked to be more covered up. I too was a breastfeeding mom and agree that it is the most natural and loving things we can do for our children. We do live in the US where breasts are not out on a regular basis. I don’t want my preschool or pre-teen sons seeing your nipples over our family breakfast. Sorry. [Nor do I want farting, cursing, drunks, or smoking!]

    • Kristin

      Actually you do are breasts out on a regular basis, if you don’t see this I recommegoing to a grocery or drug store and looking at the magazines!

      This kind of cover it up attitude about using breasts as they were designed to feed babies is just messing up our childen’s exposure to what is and isn’t okay to show for what reasons is twisted. To attract men = ok, to feed baby not? Really?

      How about we try to look outside of America to the majority of places in the world where this is the MOST respectable reason to expose our bodies?

    • RJA

      We don’t live outside of America. And, I sure hope my son is not ever getting the message that breast are only for the attraction of men. Yes, we see breast feeding, but usually people are respectful of those around them. My son is well aware of the purpose of breastfeeding- as he was breastfed. Also, we do talk about it when we see breastfeeding- but again, I think there is a certain level of respect to our neighbor that should be considered as with ALL of our personal choices.

    • MDH

      If you’re offended then why are you watching her…just look away!

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    • Seattle BFer

      Why give Denny’s MORE business?? Shouldn’t you boycott instead? I’m confused!

    • Kristin

      It would not necessarily bring more business, there is talk of doing it outside, and other movements have already started that don’t involve going in, more phone call related.

    • Sick of This

      This is so familiar to the protest on facebook when mothers got upset by facebook removing pictures that obviously did not meet with their terms of service. Facebook’s terms were right and they had every right to remove the pictures. Resturants have the right to refuse service to anyone. Everyone wants to scream about the law giving her the right to breastfeed in public, but push this law aside because it doesn’t suit you. This lady was creating a distrubance and upsetting other customers therefore causing a loss of business.

      There are lots of things that are natural in this world that we are required to do behind closed doors. Am I allowed to piss in the floor at dennys…pee is natural. Can I have sex in front of everyone at denny’s – No.

      Breastfeeding is a natural wonderful thing, but respect needs to be shown to others. All this lady had to do was be a little bit more discreet about it or feed her 1yr???? child before going to the resturant. Point blank this woman was just trying to create a problem. I would have done exactly what the manager did. I praise him/her for it. I would have left it alone until a customer complainted, then would have asked her to cover up or leave. I do not think Denny’s owes any of you anything…no apology…no anything…i hope if this protest begins they lock everyone of the mothers up for distrubing the peace. Better have a permit and not be on Denny’s property…it is a private business.

      Its like woman believe because they had a child and have the ability to feed this child through their breasts that we all have to be subjected to it.

      Now let me disspell it before its said…”because its not being used seen as a sexual thing its wrong” that argument is full of bull. People just don’t want to eat and see that. Some families don’t expose their children to this and do not want you to expose them to it.

      I don’t want to be eating watching a 1yr old child suck on his mom’s tit. I have no problem with the human body or its natural processes, but we do live in a civilized world. We are not cave people. We know how to be respectful of others.

      I’m sure all of you will have plenty to say in rebuttal to this, but not necessary. I have read all comments on 3 sites regarding this. A lot of people have a similar view on this.

    • Jake Aryeh Marcus

      Ew. Troll alert. :(

    • Nana

      Sick of This, you obviously feel very passionately about this. Well “we” feel just as passionate, if not more, to be able “FEED” and nurture our children in public…at any age and we won’t capitulate no matter how “You” feel about it! So, get over it and as MDH said, stop watching women breastfeed ”just look away”

    • Sick of This

      No matter what age…are you going to have your 6yr old hanging off your breasts in a resturant…that’s a good question because I really do not know the answer…at what age do you stop breastfeeding a child or bottle feeding if the mother doesn’t breastfeed?

      And this opinion of just “look away” is not a realistic view. Should I have to go into a restaurant any look down at the table the whole time? Should I not be able to enjoy my meal?

      Let me be clear that I think breastfeeding is a natural beautiful thing as nature intended, but there is a time and place for everything. If I walk through a park and a mother is breastfeeding sitting on a bench…i have no issue whatsoever…and several other locations…but when I’m trying to eat…i do not want to see that….at least be sensitive to other people…

      the whole theory here is that everyone else should be quite and accept what you believe, but no one else can have an opinion if it differs from yours. I never claim to be right or know everything. I just express my opinion. If 50 people in the restaurant don’t want to see it, but that one mother wants to do it…..from what I can tell…from your opinion is that these 50 should accept it and get over it…and the one person is right…

    • Sick of This

      Secondly, I’m proud of this manager. I happen to manage a business myself. The business I operate would not be affected by a breastfeeding mother unless it was during breakfast hours. If the same situation occured and the customer refused to cover up then they would be removed as well. No business should be required to give up 5-10 paying customers over one person that doesn’t know how to respect others…fine…done with this situation…moving on to some really important issues. That’s one of the problems with our country…too many people concentrating on small ridiculous issues and letting the big issues slide.

    • Jenny

      My husband, daughter and I drove a couple of hours to the nurse-in today and are so glad we did. Crystal did a great job of responding to the manager and standing up for nursing moms. I haven’t seen any news stories on it yet, but I did blog it. I am waiting to see how it is portrayed on the news as opposed to how it looked in person. We can’t get the news station that covered it on TV and it’s not online yet :-(

    • Sick of This

      Jenny, hopefully they will not waste our time with it on the news. Its was a waste of time, breath, and energy…did Denny’s apologize? If they did, then shame on them. If they didn’t then I will will fill their resturant will civilized humans that can respect other people. Not some women trying to cause a scene.

    • Kristin

      We need to remember ladies that there were small minded people like this opposed to our right to vote, our rights to work, racial equality and more. Don’t let their fear tactics scare you or make you hesitate to feed your baby. Our kids and their future depends on us standing our ground just like we have our maternal ancestory to thank for the rights we have today. Don’t let idiocracy prevail.

    • Nana

      Well put Kristin, thank you.

    • Nana
    • Jenny

      SOT, if you don’t want them to “waste your time” with it, why keep looking it up of your own volition? Seems you have put a fair amount of time thought into it already. No one is tying you up and forcing you to read this blog and comment, are they?

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    • k

      i know her!!! she is really nice and i love her son he is really cute!!! she is one of my mom’s best friends!!!!!!!!!