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Rochester sees signs of a deeply divided nation

Emily Putnam
Updated: July 29, 2020 06:34 PM
Created: July 29, 2020 06:19 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There’s an alarming trend popping up in areas around Rochester: Outrage over yard signs and anonymous letters demanding they be taken down. So far, we know it’s happened in Irondequoit, Chili and Penfield.

Penfield couple Lynn Acquafondata and Francois Piche placed their Black Lives Matter signs in their front yard as a show of support.

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“I want to just support the humanity of Black people and people of color... I didn't think of it as a particularly radical thing, it's just a sign saying that we support people and we want people to be treated fairly" Acquafondata said. 

The message they received in response? A bag of rocks at the end of her driveway paired with the words “We won’t be this nice the next time.”

When the couple reported the incident to police, they say their response was underwhelming. Police told them it’s not a threat and that they should simply throw the bag of rocks and the letter in the garbage. 

They and their neighbors agree that this was indeed a thinly veiled threat.

“When I got the note, the first thing I thought was what, do we have Ku Klux Klan in our neighborhood?” Acquafondata said.

Robert Hagelberg, another Rochester-area resident, recently had his Black Lives Matter signs torn to the ground.

When he replaced them, he received letters saying “Why do some people not like your political sign? Because it suggests that most people in America are evil racists and that is not true […] unfortunately, the Black lives moment [sic] wants to portray America as an evil society based on the actions of a few people.”

Zoning rules about yard signs vary from town to town. For example, in Irondequoit, candidate election yard signs are only permitted for a 45-day window leading up to an election.

Irondequoit Town Supervisor Dave Seeley told News10NBC that for the most part, towns tend to be pretty lenient on signs unrelated to political candidates.

"There are signs congratulating children upon graduating, there are signs that say watch out for motorcycles, there are signs that say slow down please, and signs that have expressions of support for general sentiments that relate around equality, and I can find nothing wrong with a sign that promotes equality and inclusion,” Seeley said.

None of the residents or neighbors we talked to had any plans to remove their signs. In fact, they told us we should expect to see many more of them in the future.


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