Rouses Markets is responding after a photo of former chief executive Donald Rouse Sr. at the election-results protest in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 began circulating on social media, prompting some consumers and community organizations to call for a boycott of the Thibodaux, La.-based grocer.
Rouses Markets, which has 64 stores in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, issued a statement from Rouse Sr. confirming that he was at the rally as a supporter of President Donald Trump but stating that he "left before the violence began and was shocked and saddened to see it unfold on TV."
As reported by KATC in Lafayette, La., the statement continues: "Violence and destruction do not represent our country’s values, or the values of Rouses. Though I am no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Rouses, that’s my family’s name on the building and my actions reflect on my family, Rouses and this community I love so dearly." Rouses' current CEO is Donald Rouse Sr.'s son, Donny Rouse.
The photo of Rouse Sr. and another man in face masks at the Jan. 6 protest of the 2020 U.S. presidential election results was shared on Facebook by the other man in the photo, identified by social-media users as Steve Galtier, former HR director for Rouses.
The Louisiana State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said it is ending its longstanding relationship with Rouses Markets in the wake of Rouse Sr.’s participation in the events in Washington, D.C., that culminated in a violent attack on the Capitol building. In a statement, the conference said it was "eye-opening" to see Rouse and other participate in events "that led to one of the darkest days in our country’s history."
"While we respect and encourage freedom of speech, individual thought and the right to redress our government … we do not condone any actions that are both non-peaceful and a threat to our democracy," a statement from the conference reads.
The Urban League of Louisiana issued a statement noting that "many African Americans have faithfully shopped at Rouses for years and are a large part of the store’s success and growth.” However, the organization stated, “the days of taking African American customers for granted are over."
Rouses was founded in 1960 in Houma, La., by Anthony J. Rouse Sr.