Berkshire

Reading LGBT protest held over Chick-fil-A outlet

Oracle protest Image copyright Reading Pride
Image caption Campaigners chanted and made speeches outside the shopping centre

LGBT rights campaigners have protested outside a shopping centre about a US fast-food chain's donations to anti-LGBT rights groups.

More than 60 people joined the protest outside The Oracle shopping centre in Reading, where Chick-fil-A opened its first branch on 10 October.

On Friday, the centre said the chain's six-month lease would not be extended.

Chick-fil-A has said its donations were purely focused on youth and education.

Reading Pride, which organised the protest, said it would continue to campaign against the outlet until it left.

'Spread hatred'

The group's Kirsten Bayes told protesters: "Companies like this have no place here in Reading and they have no place anywhere.

"We are standing in solidarity with campaigners across the United States... for justice and freedom for LGBT people."

Reading Labour councillor Sarah Hacker said: "We can make sure that they don't spread their hatred across the UK."

Image caption The restaurant in Reading's Oracle shopping centre opened on 10 October

The family-owned company is one of the biggest fast-food chains in the USA and boasts about 2,400 outlets across North America.

According to US news website Think Progress, the Chick-fil-A Foundation donated millions of dollars in 2017 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Paul Anderson Youth Home and the US Salvation Army.

LGBT campaigners said all three organisations have a reputation of being hostile to LGBT rights.

In 2012, the company's chairman sparked a US boycott when he said he opposed gay marriage.

On Friday, The Oracle said "the right thing to do" was to not extend the restaurant's lease.

Chick-fil-A has previously told the BBC: "Our giving has always focused on youth and education. We have never donated with the purpose of supporting a social or political agenda.

"There are 145,000 people - black, white; gay, straight; Christian, non-Christian - who represent Chick-fil-A."

In a statement, the UK Salvation Army said it "strongly objected to being presented as homophobic or transphobic", adding that it had LGBT+ members and served people "without discrimination".

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