In the days following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile—two African-American men who were gunned down by police officers earlier this month—tensions between civil rights protesters and the authorities are running at an all-time high. Now, the strained relations between the police and the public are spilling out into local restaurant chains.
On Monday, two officers eating a North Carolina Zaxby's—a regional chicken wing chain—claimed they were taunted by the restaurant's staff and purposely served an insufferable amount of hot sauce on their food, WBTV reports.
The wife of a Cleveland County deputy made the accusations in a Facebook post earlier this week, claiming that her husband and his partner were taunted after walking into the restaurant on Sunday in their uniforms. The harassment allegedly continued as the officers ordered their food and sat down to eat.
"As they walked up to place their orders, the boys in the back cooking the food started yelling at them and calling them names," wrote the wife, who, along with her husband and his partner, have chosen to remain anonymous. "Then, as they sat down to eat their food, my husband realized [they] had put the hottest sauce possible on [his] wings—to the point where his food wasn't even fit to eat."
While a little extra seasoning might seem like a fairly mild form of civil protest, in 2016, hot sauces have reached new and dangerous heights. Zaxby's, which boasts the slogan "full of flavor and made to order," prides itself on serving a slew of scalding hot sauces with its chicken, including "Tongue Torch," "Nuclear," and "Insane," which claims to be "an all-out taste bud assault from start to finish."
Joel Shores, a captain with the Cleveland County Police Department, spoke briefly following the incident, but appeared unsurprised by the events.
"Years ago, this profession was respected, it was honored. Now to get ridiculed, to be a target, to possibly get shot at, for little pay. What’s the motivation to be a police officer other than do it because your heart’s in it to help the community?” he said. Last week, five police officers were killed by a sniper during an otherwise peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas. “If you’re not ready to be ridiculed, law enforcement is not the job for you, especially in today’s world.”
Following the controversy, Zaxby's posted a message to its customers on Facebook.
Though the country is currently in a period of national crisis, this is hardly the first time fast-food workers have lashed out against police officers. Last summer, employees at a Kansas Taco Bell wrote the word "PIG" across a cop's soft tacos. And this past fall, an employee at a Texas Whataburger was fired after refusing service to two off-duty officers.