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- Political statement or community trolling? Both? Neither?
It’s pretty funny, says the owner of Bennett’s Barbershop. But not everyone's laughing.
For the last month Leroy Bennett has had a Donald Trump election sign hanging in the window of his Almon Street barber shop.
“I put it in the front window just to piss people off,” says Bennett, a self-described “shit-disturber.”
The campaign sign was noticed this week by blogger Halifax ReTales, who posted a photo of it to Facebook on Wednesday afternoon with a caption stating Bennett’s “has decided they don’t want my business.” ReTales declined to comment further when contacted by The Coast.
The social media criticism prompted Patty Cuttell-Busby, executive director of the North End Business Association, to take to Twitter (since deleted) in defence of Bennett's right to freedom of expression.
She tells The Coast those objecting to the sign are overreacting. It’s a “conversation piece,” says Cuttell-Busby, designed to promote a much-needed dialogue during these polarized times.
“That’s the intent, behind that sign, is to welcome the dialogue,” she says. “Is isolating [Bennett] and trying to kill his business, is that going to heal us? I don’t think so.”
Bennett says the sign has prompted a handful of middle fingers from passersby, but he laughs off any suggestion it will have a negative impact on his barber shop’s business.
“If people are that goddamn foolish, they can kiss my arse.”
But Isaac Saney, Transition Year Program director and senior instructor in Black Studies at Dalhousie University, doesn’t think the sign is about healing any divide between the right and left. He says Bennett’s actions are “callous.”
“Obviously he knows what Trump stands for,” Saney says, referring to Trump’s history of comments about women, African Americans and other marginalized communities.
“If he says he’s a fan—whether he says that tongue-in-cheek or not—in a sense he’s giving full license that these ideas are appropriate.”
Saney is one of 10 panelists taking part next week in a discussion at Dal on the recent US election and its implications for the American people and global security.
Intentionally hanging the sign as a provocation to neighbours is not only offensive, he says, but normalizes the “frightening regression” of society displayed in Trump’s fascist actions.
“People get into a discussion of freedom of speech and so on, but what’s interesting is after World War II, certain forms of speech and symbols were prohibited because they were considered actions onto themselves,” says Saney.
Bennett doesn’t seem to agree. The barber says he’s a big fan of both the incoming American president and also Trump’s Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
A new round of debate about the relationship between those two world leaders was ignited Tuesday night after CNN and Buzzfeed published unverified claims that Moscow had compromising materials they were willing to use to blackmail the president-elect—including sex tapes of his involvement in some kind of anti-Obama piss-orgy.
The aforementioned intelligence documents—oddly enough—have a direct connection to Halifax.
After being passed around Washington, D.C. for weeks leading up to the election, a “former senior western diplomat who had seen the documents, knew their source and thought him highly reliable” spoke about the matter with Republican senator John McCain while both were attending November’s Halifax International Security Forum.
The Guardian writes that McCain decided the implications were serious enough “to dispatch a trusted emissary, a former US official, to meet the source and find out more.” Two transatlantic flights and a clandestine meeting later, McCain handed the still unverified documents over to FBI director James Comey.
Trump and his surrogates firmly denounced the accusations at a press conference Wednesday morning. That event was originally scheduled to announce the president-elect's two oldest sons will be running the Trump Organization during his term in office in an effort to avoid any conflicts of interest.
America's ethics director quickly responded to that bit of news by calling Trump’s plans “meaningless” and “wholly inadequate.” Trump was also criticized for his comments at the press conference about Russia, hacking, Obamacare and the media.
“I think they pick on Trump too much,” says Bennett. The barbershop owner says he believes Trump has the potential to become the best president in American history.
“I’m just hopeful that he’s going to do good,” says Bennett. “What can you do? He’s going to be in for the next four years.”