John Canesa, owner of Canesa’s Brooklyn Heros Deli in Clayton, California is facing backlash after posting a controversial Facebook offer which read, “Free side when you say ‘Send her back.’” The offer was a reference to the chant “Send her back!” yelled by audience members attending a July 17 campaign rally for President Donald Trump in Greenville, North Carolina.
Considered by many to have racist overtones, the chant was inspired by a tweet sent by Trump a week earlier that targeted four congresswomen of color who’ve been critical of his administration. Trump wrote that Representatives Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley should “go back” to their home countries if they were unhappy in the United States. The Greenville chant primarily targeted Somali-born Representative Omar.
Canesa also wrote, “Meatballs made with beef today incase (sic) we offend any of our overly sensitive pork haters!” a possible reference to Muslims, Jews and others whose religious beliefs prohibit eating pork products.
At one point, Canesa commented that the restaurant had given away free side dishes to 65 patrons after they’d uttered the phrase.
“Come and get it we are about to sell out,” Canesa wrote, adding, “I should post more often!”
Canesa posted a video where he shared his personal views. “As for the ‘Send her back!’ comment: Harsh, yes. But, however, it’s my First Amendment right. Freedom of Speech,” he said.
Most all of Canesa’s Brooklyn Heros’ Facebook posts have either been removed or made private. Canesa said he’s even received threats since publishing the July 19 post.
Here’s what you need to know about John Canesa and his controversial promotion.
1. Clayton’s Mayor Said There’s “No Place in Our Community for Hatred & Bigotry”
Clayton Mayor Tuija Catalano was upset by Canesa’s offer and expressed her feelings on social media, describing the restaurant owner’s comments as “hateful.”
“I am very saddened to have seen a FB post by the owner of local deli this morning. 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,” Catalano said, adding that Canesa’s controversial promotion hurt the city’s reputation.
Catalano pointed out that she is a foreign-born woman like Representative Omar, and found Canesa’s comments unacceptable.
2. Canesa’s Has Been Sharply Criticized & a “No Racism” Protest is Planned
Many Clayton residents have publicly voiced their disapproval of Canesa’s promotion. KRON interviewed Daniel Budford about inflammatory offer. “I think it’s very hurtful and racist to be honest,” he said. Budford pointed out that Canesa’s comment might drive away foreign-born customers. “You know, the business owner is only hurting himself,” he said.
A “No Racism” rally in Clayton was planned for this week by the East Bay Human Rights Advocates, but was cancelled after organizers received threats. The event has been rescheduled for August 3, according to the group’s Facebook page.
“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.”
3. Canesa’s Patrons Came Out to Support the Restaurant
Not everyone was offended by Canesa’s “Send her back” post. On July 23, loyal customers visited Canesa’s to show their support. NBC Bay Area reported there was a “big boost” in businesss and that patrons bought so many sandwiches the restaurant sold out.
Nancy King commented that she’d continue to dine at Canesa’s because “he makes a great sandwich and he brought a lot of happiness and fun times to this little community.”
Maggie Wise gave a different reason for defending Canesa. “I want Mr. Canesa to know that while I disagree with his statements I will stand next to him as an American Citizen for his right to free speech.”
4. Canesa’s Brooklyn Heros Was “Yelp Bombed”
The Canesa’s controversy has spilled out onto social media as detractors and supporters chimed in. The restaurant’s page on the business review site Yelp was “Yelp Bombed” by a flood of remarks unrelated to the restaurant’s food or service, causing Yelp’s site administrators to temporarily disable new comments.
Yelp posted a message on Canesa’s Brooklyn Heros page which read, “This business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team for content related to media reports.”
Another message on the page read, “This business recently made waves in the news, which often means people come to this page to post their views on the news rather than a first-hand consumer experience. As a result, we’ve temporarily disabled the ability to post content about this business,”
On TripAdvisor, Canesa’s also received some criticism for the offer. “All the sandwiches at this place taste really intolerant. Fries have a strong fascist flavor. And the whole restaurant smells distinctly un-American,” one reviewer wrote.
5. Most American Voters Think “Send Her Back” Was a Racist Comment
On July 24, Politico reported that fifty-eight percent of voters believe the “Send her back!” chant at Trump’s North Carolina rally was racist. Approximately half of Republicans sureyed characterized the chant as “inappropriate.”
Fifty-three percent of voters thought Trump’s tweets about the four congresswomen were racist. Eighty-four percent of the respondents were Democrats and 16 percent were Republicans.
Trump said he disapproved of the chant, but did nothing to stop the crowd. “I was not happy with it. I disagree with it. But again, I didn’t say that. They did. But I disagree with it,” he commented.