CLINTON, Md. - Dozens of people gathered for a protest outside of a Prince George's County restaurant Sunday after a customer at The Fish Market in Clinton says he was told he couldn't come in wearing a shirt that said "I can't breathe," a reference to the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of police.
FOX 5 got more than a dozen calls about the demonstration.
The protest caused The Fish Market, on Old Branch Avenue, to shut down for the day. One of the owners posted an apology on Facebook blaming her husband's mental illness and alcoholism for the incident.
Anger spread through the community after a social media post describing what happened Friday to Daryl Rollins.
Rollins, who was at the protest with his family, said he was waiting to get in the restaurant Friday when the male owner saw his shirt.
"He came over and told me, 'Why do you have that shirt on? I seen the video. It was terrible. Why would you wear that shirt? You cannot come into my establishment like that,'" said Rollins.
Rollins confirmed that the owner seemed to be referencing the video of George Floyd being killed. Rollins said he believes the owner took the shirt the wrong way.
Rollins said the owner eventually changed his mind, let him in and comped his food and drinks. But he says later he overheard him say something else about him.
"He actually sat there and said that he wished he could smack the guy in the yellow shirt. Which was me. I was the only guy that had a yellow shirt on," Rollins said.
On Facebook, co-owner Sherry Giovannoni apologized for what happened with her husband. "To say that I am shocked and embarrassed by his behavior is an understatement," she wrote. She blamed mental illness and alcohol and said they were in the process of getting him help. Sherry told FOX 5 by phone that her husband didn't understand what the shirt meant, calling it a misunderstanding.
Several people at the protest said this wasn't an isolated incident and gave specific details about racist language they've heard.
Carla McClinton recalled an incident years ago.
"I said, 'What did you just say?'" Said McClinton. "He said, 'Carla, I was just joking. I said, 'No, that's not funny.'"
Giovannoni denies her husband has used racist language in the past. FOX 5 was not able to get a statement from him, though he posted on Facebook saying his wife had thrown him under the bus and they were no long man and wife or business partners.
Giovannoni and Rollins met at the restaurant Saturday night and she apologized to him.
The restaurant is typically closed Monday, but they plan to reopen Tuesday.