Lawmakers voicing opinions on controversial mural

CLEVELAND – Lawmakers are being asked to help do something about a mural painted on the side of a building located in Cleveland's east side that some neighbors say blurs the line between free speech and hate speech, Action News' Harry Boomer reported.

Deli owner Abe Ayad is responsible for the mural, which is painted on the side of the building that houses his business. It is located at East 55th Street and Chester Avenue.

On the mural are controversial writings that many neighbors say are hateful in nature. Some examples of what is painted on the mural are: "Ask Jesus about racial profiling"; "Give me back my land"; and "This is how I fight for my rights. You can fight for yours too … by calling your elected officials."

The mural lists U.S. Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Dennis Kucinich by name, including their telephone numbers.

Across the street from the deli, a group of political heavyweights, including Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, spoke out in opposition to Ayad's very visible U.S. Constitution-guaranteed expression.

"We can stand together and say that, in fact, Cleveland is no place to hate," Campbell said.

Betty Sue Feuer, who is a member of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke for the Jewish community.

"Bigotry against one is bigotry against all, and that's the message we're sending," Feuer said.

"It's bad," Ward 7 councilwoman Fannie Lewis said. "There's no question about it, it's bad. This is a very difficult thing to deal with."

"The table is big enough for all of us," Tubbs Jones said. "The table is big enough for our diversity."

Ayad said his message is not hateful. He said that the mural is just his way to fight for his rights.

"I'm not a hateful man," Ayad said. "I'm incapable of hating anybody or anything. But I won't be hated or persecuted by anybody or anything."

The deli mural isn't the first controversial expression Ayad has made that has angered people in the community. He once owned a car wash on East 55th and Carnegie Avenue with similar expressions on it.

That one was sold and then painted over. Ayad said that is not likely to happen to the deli mural.