Racist comments posted online by a Huntington restaurant owner about a group of young people peacefully protesting against police brutality in Huntington on Monday have caused an uproar — and a demonstration in front of the restaurant Tuesday.
Luigi Petrone, owner of Tutto Pazzo on New York Avenue, went live Monday on Facebook as he walked down the street with Augie Abbatiello Jr., owner of Pancho Villa Mexican restaurant, and denigrated the protesters.
As the marchers headed down the street, Petrone warned business owners to “be careful” and called the protesters — who were mostly young local people — “punks” and “little animals, savages.”
“We don’t joke around alright, they knew they come into Huntington they’d have a problem, all of them,” Petrone said Monday “They came in and they came out, they saw a bunch of us with a bunch of watermelons we were going to throw at them.”
He also mocked Huntington Station, saying they looked like they came from the Big H shopping center area on buses. The Big H shopping center is in Huntington Station.
Joey Petrone, Luigi's brother and co-owner of the restaurant, said in an emailed statement Tuesday released by his attorney that the comments were disgraceful, immoral, and racist.
"Mr. Petrone wants to express his DEEPEST APOLOGY for the reprehensible comments made by his brother Luigi during the peaceful march in Huntington yesterday in honor of George Floyd, whose violent death should never have occurred at the hands of another," the statement said. "The shameful comments of Luigi have caused the Community, and the Petrone Family anguish, fear, sadness and outrage. The Community has the right to feel anger. Yesterday’s march was peaceful, not violent and SHOULD NOT have been criticized in ANY WAY."
Abbatiello said Tuesday he was not paying attention to what Petrone was saying.
"I was on my phone, texting people, I wasn't made aware of what was said until he posted the video," he said. "It's appalling and disgraceful, I'm disgusted."
On Tuesday about 100 people gathered outside the restaurant in reaction to the post.
The crowd was made up of mostly of Huntington residents. Cars driving by showed their support with continuous honking.
“We’re here. We’re loud. And we’re peaceful,” said Sabrina Dixon, 52, of Huntington Station. “We want our message to be heard. Black lives matter. We matter. We’re Long Islanders too and we also support these restaurants. We deserve more respect.”
Many protesters showed up to the scene carrying watermelons, piling more than 80 of the fruits in front of the restaurant. Protesters held up signs emblazoned with the words "Black Lives Matter" and "Peacefully Protesting with Produce." The watermelon is expected to be donated to local food pantries.
Liz Marinelli, 66, of Huntington, said, although she didn’t have any accounts on social media, her son who lives in another state saw Petrone’s Facebook video and called her to let her know about the protest.
“I quickly made a sign and came down here to show my support,” she said.
NAACP regional director and former Huntington Town Board member Tracey Edwards has demanded a public apology from Petrone.
Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said there was no place for racism in the town or anywhere in our nation.
“Yesterday's comments, from one individual, are not reflective of the sentiments of the vast majority of residents and business owners across the Town of Huntington,” he said. “Yesterday, in Huntington village, we had a diverse group of about 100 residents peacefully protest the unjust tragedy in Minneapolis.”
Town board member Gene Cook also issued a statement condemning the remarks.
With Daysi Calavia-Robertson