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Cullman restaurant faces protest Patrons supportive despite breast-feeding mom's complaints

CULLMAN (AP) — A woman who breast-fed her baby in a barbecue restaurant said a worker placed dirty dish towels over the child's head to keep other diners from seeing what was going on, prompting her to stage a protest.

The owner of Johnny's Barbecue, Gary Wiggins, denies that the mother or child were mistreated. He said some customers were upset after seeing Elizabeth McDowell of Cullman breast-feeding her baby inside the restaurant last weekend.

"I'm praying for this lady, and hope she finds the truth," he said. "We'll move on from here."

McDowell said she was breast-feeding her child at the restaurant on Saturday when an employee told her to cover herself and threw a dirty dish- cloth on her.

Becky Smalley, a Johnny's Barbecue employee, said McDowell had most of her breast exposed. Smalley and her daughter-in-law, Katrina James, argued with McDowell outside the restaurant.

Wiggins said an employee offered the woman two clean towels from the kitchen and asked her to cover herself after several complaints from other patrons.

McDowell planned a demonstration of as many as 30 breast-feeding moms at the restaurant on Thursday, but only three showed up. Instead, the restaurant parking lot was full of cars driven by customers showing their support of Wiggins and co-owner Ronald Dunn, The Cullman Times reported.

Nurses Deb Singleton and Lisa Pugh said they both supported the managers' decision to ask McDowell to cover up.

"This establishment has been in business for 40 to 50 years, and a lot of elderly people eat here. This is disrespectful to them," Singleton told the newspaper.

Katrina James said she is the mother of an infant, and she doesn't have a problem with public breast-feeding as long as women are discreet.

"I just don't think you should do it in the middle of a restaurant where people are eating," she said.

McDowell said mothers have a right to breast-feed their children either in public or private.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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