A special deal offered to customers at a deli in Clayton, Calif., has sparked a controversy in the tiny East Bay community.
John Canesa, owner of Canesa’s Brooklyn Heros, posted a comment on his personal Facebook page last week that seemed to reference racist comments made by President Trump and his supporters targeting four non-white members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Meatballs made with beef today in case we offend any of you overly sensitive pork haters!! Free side when you say ‘send her back,’” Canesa wrote.
The chant “Send her back!” erupted during a campaign rally last week for President Trump in reference to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia but moved to the U.S. as a child. The cheer went up days after Trump tweeted about four Democratic legislators: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Omar. The women have actively been in Trump’s crosshairs after voicing their criticism of his administration.
“Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” Trump tweeted. Three of the women — Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib — were born in the U.S., and Omar is a U.S. citizen.
In the week since, people throughout the country have recounted their own experiences of being told to “go back” where they came from.
Canesa’s Facebook post has sharply divided the town of 12,000, the majority of whom voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, in keeping with the Democratic majority in Contra Costa County.
Many, including Clayton’s mayor, have decried the post.
“We all have rights to our own political, religious, and other opinions. We all have a right to post about them too. However, there is no place in our community for hatred and bigotry,” Tuija Catalano wrote. “When hateful comments are being promoted as part of a local business, they reflect on our community’s reputation. As an elected official, who is also a woman and foreign-born, I personally find a comment about sending anyone back over their political opinions unacceptable.”
Others, however, have jumped to Canesa’s defense, noting that the 1st Amendment protects his right to free speech. Some have posted positive reviews and support of his business on social media following his remark.
“Do you all honestly think that every business you patronize aligns with your core beliefs? Showing hate in the name of tolerance is still hate,” one commenter wrote.
Canesa reportedly posted a response on his Facebook page Tuesday morning, but since has deleted the statement. His original post also no longer appears to be visible.