Chapel Hill News

Chapel Hill restaurant focus of breastfeeding fight

A private Facebook post this week ignited a campaign to defend breastfeeding laws and take a local pizza shop to task for allegedly ignoring them.

The rumors that a nursing mother was told to leave Italian Pizzeria III last weekend are false, said co-owners Vincenzo and Angelo Marrone.

The nursing mother, identified only as “Shannon,” has not responded to interview requests but told friends that police were called to make her leave the West Franklin Street restaurant locally known as IP3 after breastfeeding her baby. Two friends thought to be with her have not been identified.

The mother said someone she presumed was the restaurant owners’ mother stared, pointed and talked with employees about her, said Carrie Campbell, who got to know the mother through the private online breastfeeding group.

The incident, sometime between Feb. 20 and Feb. 23, escalated when the baby became fussy and the mother removed a cover over the baby’s head, Campbell said. Police were called to make the mother leave, she said.

Campbell read the post and organized a protest nurse-in (nando.com/-2) for Monday at IP3. It has since been postponed, because some protesters were asking for more concrete information and out of concern for the mother, she said. A new date has not been announced.

But breastfeeding moms and supporters have continued the protest online this week, posting comments and negative reviews on the restaurant’s Facebook page, Yelp and other websites.

Her goal in trying to organize a protest is not to shut down the restaurant, Campbell said, but to create awareness of the state’s breastfeeding laws. Breastfeeding is legal in any public or private place in North Carolina, even if the mother’s nipple is exposed.

Nursing mothers “shouldn’t have to go hide in their car or hide in the bathroom,” she said, “out of fear someone will say something.”

Nursing mothers welcome

The Marrones said nursing mothers have always been welcome at IP3. The business has been home for their family for 35 years, they said, and they have babies of their own; Vincenzo Marrone’s wife gave birth to twins in January.

The brothers were working that weekend but didn’t learn about the allegations until a post Monday on their Facebook page, they said. Their mother works at the restaurant but speaks little English, they said, and wouldn’t have said anything.

Mothers have breastfed their children in the restaurant many times, they said.

“There is nothing more beautiful than to see a mom breastfeeding their child,” Angelo Marrone said. “It’s just a beautiful thing. Life is beautiful. It’s natural.”

Chapel Hill police don’t have a record of being called to the restaurant over the weekend, spokesman Lt. Josh Mecimore said, and he couldn’t find any officers who knew about the incident.

Angelo Marrone called the department Monday to file a report, Mecimore said, after he got a call about the protest planned for Monday.

“If we played any role, I would love to know,” Mecimore said, so the officers involved can be trained on how to handle future situations.

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