A sign above a Port Jefferson ice cream store reading “In Trump we Trust” has been removed but not before causing a stir among residents and on social media.
Roger Rutherford, general manager of Roger’s Frigate, said the banner was hung Friday to celebrate the inauguration and was removed Sunday night.
“It was really to show support and show that we trust that the new president is going to move the country forward,” Rutherford said.
Rutherford said the store had received “mostly positive feedback” about the banner as well as some “negative comments” from customers, though it wasn’t their intent to “stir up trouble.”
“Inauguration Day is a very important time in our country, and that’s entirely what we’re trying to highlight — not to start a fight,” Rutherford said.
About two dozen residents have called the village to complain about the sign, Port Jefferson Village Clerk Bob Juliano said.
The owner of the building was issued a summons Friday because the banner is considered “temporary signage” and therefore in violation of village code, Juliano said. He said the penalty could be a fine of up to $2,000. It will be set by a judge.
The owner was also issued a summons in the fall after hanging a similar banner that simply read “Trump.” That banner was also in violation of village code, Juliano said.
Despite the first summons, Rutherford said they hung the second sign Friday because they believe their “free speech rights have been targeted.”
“We don’t want to get pushed over by anyone not wanting us to exercise our First Amendment rights,” Rutherford said.
Juliano said that the sign was in violation not because of its message but because of the material it’s made of.
The store’s owner, George Wallis, did not respond to a request for comment.
People have since been sounding off on social media to both decry and defend the sign.
“Never been so proud of Port Jeff,” one Twitter user posted Saturday along with a picture of the Trump sign hanging above the store.
A Facebook page called “Boycott the Port Jefferson Frigate” was created Sunday. That page was deleted on Monday, according to one of the boycott’s organizers, Heather Ippolito.
Ippolito, 39, of Setauket, said the boycott was started both because the sign violates village code and because it is “divisive for the community.”
“I believe that putting up a sign with Trump, who spread hate speech and fear mongering throughout his campaign, is really not appropriate to have up,” she said.
Ippolito said she and others began the boycott after the first Trump sign was hung and she said she will continue to boycott the business even though the banner has been removed.
“I agree that it is absolutely their right to show their support for any politician. And it is our right to not go into his store,” Ippolito said.
Ippolito said she did not delete the Facebook page.
The creator of the Facebook page took it down after learning the sign was removed.
In response, another page called, “Support the Port Jefferson Frigate” emerged on the social media site. The page was created to back the store, which is being “unfairly targeted,” according to a description of the page.
Rutherford said he has not seen a lull in customers and that he doesn’t anticipate the boycott to impact the shop’s business.