The owner of a small deli in the East Bay town of Clayton is facing a backlash from locals and social-media users after putting up a controversial promotion on his Facebook page.
In a post on his personal Facebook page, John Canesa, owner of Canesa’s Brooklyn Heros deli in Clayton, wrote: “Meatballs made with beef today in case we offend any of our overly sensitive pork haters!! Free side when you say send her back! #canesasbrooklynheros.”
The message immediately touched a nerve in the small community on the northern flank of Mt. Diablo, coming just days after President Donald Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color “go back” to where they came from. That controversy was further enflamed last Wednesday, when a crowd of Trump supporters changed “send her back” during a campaign rally in North Carolina, a message that Canesa was apparently referencing in his Facebook post.
Canesa’s Facebook is no longer visible to the public, and no one answered the phone at the deli Monday morning. But as reaction rolled in, both in support of and against Canesa, many immediately moved the conversation onto social-media platforms and local TV stations. Some blasted Canesa’s post, including the foreign-born mayor of Clayton, t, who said she was “very saddened” by the entire affair.
“We all have rights to our own political, religious, and other opinions,” the mayor wrote in her own Facebook post, including a screenshot of Canesa’s message. “We all have a right to post about them too. However, there is no place in our community for hatred and bigotry. 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.”
A woman answering the phone at Clayton city hall said Catalano did not have regular office hours; the mayor did not immediately respond to an email seeking further comment.
Sara Zendenham, the KTVU reporter who first broke the story, went on Twitter to say that she had spoken with Canesa and that he had informed her he’d received more than one threat since putting up his promotion on Facebook.
Social-media reaction was varied, with one user saying “They called out racism in Clayton. LOVE THEM” while another wrote: “I think what’s really important here is #sendherback. Just because y’all can’t take a joke doesn’t mean you have to try and punish someone else over it.”
Some people supported Canesa, including some who stopped by the deli. One customer, Matt Ghirardo, told a local TV station that as “a longtime customer” he doesn’t agree with Canesa’s critics, adding “if you don’t like somebody’s opinion don’t come here, but you don’t have to get on social outlet and write all these negative comments. This is good food, this guy has been in business for a long time.”
Others voiced their opinions about the post on Yelp, leaving negative reviews.
“I am saddened to hear about Johnny’s racist views. I have always loved coming here but if he will no longer offer an inclusive restaurant, then I can no longer spend my money there in good conscience,” a user said in a review, updating a previously favorable post and dropping their stars rating from five to one.
The East Bay Human Rights Advocates group also took to Facebook to share their outrage over Canesa’s comments, writing “We at EBHRA strongly condemn the comments made by Mr. Canesa, and further ask that he apologize to our community for his hateful message and further division in an already divided nation.”
The group also said it would hold a protest on Saturday at the Grove Park in downtown Clayton in an effort to promote tolerance and inclusivity.
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