A local anti-racism group on Saturday morning demonstrated on North Main Street near Fred’s Breakfast Club in New Hope to protest online comments by defenders of an offensive sign displayed at the restaurant.
An expected counter-protest never materialized, as dozens of demonstrators gathered peacefully and conversed with passerby about their cause, several of whom had dined at Fred’s or its sister restaurant, The Landing.
A photo of the sign at the center of the controversy, which tells a joke about a dog owner applying for welfare on behalf of his pets, was first posted Tuesday on Facebook by a member of the New Hope & Lambertville Community group.
“This morning I went to sign my dogs up for welfare,” read the sign. “At first the lady said the dogs are not eligible to draw welfare. Then I explained to her my dogs are mixed in color, unemployed, can’t speak English and have no idea who their daddies are…my dogs get their first check Friday.”
After a somewhat tone-deaf initial public response, Fred’s owners removed the sign and apologized as the outcry on social media grew.
“To every person of any color, gender, orientation, and those affected by hate who feel demeaned or unwelcome by the content of the application, we are deeply sorry,” they said in a Facebook post.
But for many, comments by the restaurant’s defenders on Facebook were more disturbing than the sign in question.
“Sign was pretty funny,” read one. “I can see why snowflakes are melting.”
For protest organizer Kevin E. Leven, opening a dialogue with the restaurant owners and supporters was the main goal of Saturday’s action.
“We’re asking the owners of Fred’s Breakfast and The Landing to go on the record about the racist comments from their supporters on Facebook, to possibly urge these same supporters to retract these statements, and to consider giving a significant donation to charities of their choosing in Trenton that will have direct positive lasting impact on BIPOC people,” he said.
Protester Sue-Ann DiVito of Solebury Township agreed that the reaction from owners and defenders of Fred’s had made a bad situation much worse.
“The tipping point for me was the first responses by the restaurant, which just reinforced the toxicity of the sign itself,” she said. “Had they simply said ‘Oh my goodness, we regret this, let’s have a conversation” — any kind of response that was open for conversation — that would have been acceptable and appropriate.”
Protesters engaged several passerby in conversations about their cause, although not everyone shared their opinion.
“I’ve never seen any racism in town,” said one man who said he was a frequent customer of Fred’s. “This is BS.”
Ina Howard-Parker of New Hope summed up the mood of many in attendance.
“We have a long tradition in New Hope of being on the right side of history, whether it comes to abolition, or hosting underground railroad sites, or integrating our schools after the end of the civil war,” she said. “We have a long history of activism for gay rights and all kinds of diversity and tolerance and love, and I want to stand up for that in New Hope today.”
The owners of Fred’s Breakfast Club and The Landing did not respond to requests for comment.
Surprised that NHFP reporter on the story recently posted on Protest in town took a side in their reporting and only reported 1 side of an issue and only 1 side of a multi accusation complaint.
Poor reporting n poor follow up.
Owners of restaurant would not return my phone calls or email, so hard to express their viewpoint, making story less balanced. If you can somehow get them to contact me, I would love to publish their views!
It may have been meant as a joke but it isn’t funny. This type of thing should not be tolerated.
The sign was clearly racist and even though many white folks would just find it funny and shrug, members of the minority communities who were the intended targets are right to be offended. And in these times there are certainly other funny things to post that are not so clearly racist and derogatory
The outrage du jour. By next week, these clowns will be upset about something else. That’s one good thing about these social-justice warriors: they are upset by so many things, they usually don’t spend much time on any one issue. In a few weeks, this will be forgotten and Fred’s will be doing just fine.
Keith you are so right.Short memory span induced and aided by higher education.
They have the attention span of a gnat.
It’s good to see that the BLM protestors behaved peacefully this time, and didn’t resort to violence, arson or looting like they’ve done in cities across the US this past summer.
Anyone who thinks this sign is funny needs a sense of humor no. 1. It’s not a,difference of opinion that needs to be tolerated! It’s not what new hope was, most of us moved here for it’s open-minded accepting ways that seemed genuine to me, it’s where people could be different and fit in.
Tolerance also definitely means leaving alone views and expressions you do not agree with. You can’t agree with everything. Tolerance means acceptance and moving on.
This is a myopic worldview George. I come from the “boomer” generation, and through my lifetime, mostly recently, I’ve seen what tolerance for stupidity can yield. Look at the current state of our country. This happened because people tolerated bad behavior for so long, saying things like others in this thread like “oh you can’t take a joke”, etc. These people really just don’t want to own the fact that they’ve aligned with the wrong side of history. The only other person I can recall saying “oh they can’t take a joke” in my life are abusive husbands and schoolyard bullies. Lot’s of people can take jokes. This wasn’t one. Whoever wrote this had hate in their heart, and Fred’s should have known better on multiple occasions. The first was allowing this person membership. The second was hanging this on their wall, essentially saying “we like this”. I heard the owner tried to deflect, suggesting they just hung up something a member gave them (mistake number three in a long series of mistakes that are ultimately evidence of where they stand on this important issue). I don’t just “hang up” things people give me in my house unless they have some meaning to me personally. This is a weak excuse, and nothing more.
This is a time of incredible positive change in this country, spurred by decades of injustice and white privilege being “tolerated”. It’s time to admit that things can be better, instead of hiding behind empty platitudes and forming tribes with people we have nothing in common with other than the fact that we’re white and we’re easily scared by propaganda from the far right.
For anyone claiming a sense of humor would alleviate all of this, I think they’d be wise to go to a comedy club so they can see what actual comedy looks like. The worst joke ever told is probably funnier than any humor you might find in this. This was malice disguised as humor by someone who is too much of a coward to outright say the hateful things they believe in their heart. There’s far too much of this today, specifically coming from my own generation, which has disappointed me incredibly lately.
It’s time to listen to younger people and make space for their voices to be heard instead of trivializing their concerns so much that they feel the only option they have left is to protest.
Whether or not this is a time of “incredible positive change” is an opinion, and remains to be seen.
I also find the term “white privilege” to be an incredibly presumptive generalization.
This term is typically leveled by someone who is actually privileged, no matter their color.
I think there are many, hispanics, asians as well as poor white people who find the term offensive and demeaning and lacking in sensitivity for their plight in society.
If you think all whites automatically enjoy white privilege, then you need to take a drive through poor white areas of Appalachia or Louisiana.
I think this article written in 2001 by a black author may be an eye opener for you.
I would like some “non white privelege” so I can skip work, leave the basement, destroy property, burn, loot, shoot and otherwise exercise my right to create mayhem.
Of course while receiving all those handouts that are due to me.
In fact, I need some reparations. I am shorter than 6 feet and have glasses. Oh, I also believe in God so I am a true minority.
Yes, tolerance should apply to everyone.
The same people protesting the wording of this sign are the people who think it is okay to refer to President Trump as the “orange man.”
Trump is fair skinned and has no control over the way the sun effects his skin.
As a fair-skinned person, the sun tans my skin a golden orange color.
Therefore, I find the term as applied to a fair-skinned person offensive.
I hold a full time job, and do not have time to hang out protesting everything I disagree with.
Even if I had the time to protest the phrase “orange man”, I would not because I support free speech and I truly am tolerant of other points of view.
It’s a pity that nowdays people can’t even laugh at joke, so many people are standing on their toes and suspect insults from everywhere and everyone. What has happened ???
It never was a joke to black people. What’s happened is young white people are more woke and have had enough of their parents generation’s racist B***s**t.
They guy who said he’s never seen any racism in this town clearly didn’t go to school here.
One of the reasons why I love living in New Hope was the diversity and the progressive atmosphere of the – gay rights before it was even popular in the 80s.
I remember every one was welcomed here with only a handful people that weren’t inclusive. Look we all know the system is broken and change is what is needed. While it is needed to be tolerant of others opinions it is inexcusable to put hatred on paper and frame it.
Well said Nancy. America needs to end it’s denial of institutional racism and the affect is has bad on our society. Provoking a conversation about injustice is how we become better.
You are contradicting yourself. You said “it is needed to be tolerant of others opinions” but then said it is inexcusable to put hatred on paper and frame it. You just demonstrated you are not tolerant of others’ opinions.