UNITED STATES: When arsonists reputedly set fire to some Donald Trump “lawn art” outside a New York family home, the man billed as the only conservative artist in America came out swinging.
Scott LoBaido simply erected a bigger version of the sculpture a giant “T” covered in stars and stripes — on the same patch of lawn on Staten Island to whoops and cheers from the neighbors.
“I don’t care who you vote for, got a Hillary (Clinton) supporter over there, God bless you,” he told the crowd. “Just respect, respect my opinion to vote for who I want to.”
LoBaido called it his version of Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech” painting, which was inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and described the 2016 election campaign as “a horror show.”
“The hatred, the violence is just out of control,” said the New York artist, whose patriotic art has been displayed across Staten Island and the United States.
He created the “T” image after Trump supporters were insulted for wearing the Republican nominee’s official campaign attire.
“May be it means tolerance, may be it means terrific, may be it means Trump,” he said. “It just went crazy.”
T-shirts of the image sell like hot cakes, but when he installed the first “T” on friend Sam Pirozzolo’s lawn, he and his supporters were incensed when it was burnt down at the weekend.
New York police confirm they are investigating the reported arson. So far no arrests have been made.
As the replacement went up on Tuesday, onlookers chanted “USA, USA, USA” and a woman protester yelling “Love Trumps Hate” was jeered.
“I’m not going to be intimidated by anyone else. This is my property, this is my right to do so and this is a work of art,” said optician Pirozzolo outside his large, detached home.
While the previous sign was 12 feet (3.7 meters) tall, the new one is 16 feet, and will stay put “until my wife tells me to take it down,” the father of two joked.
The Republican nominee even called Pirozzolo after the suspected arson, going on speaker phone to talk to his children.
Trump, “was a gentleman,” Pirozzolo said shortly before the White House candidate stormed into fresh controversy over remarks about his Democratic rival Clinton.
“We were very surprised,” he told reporters. “He said ‘how are you, how are your wife and children, is everything ok?'”
The neighbors called the lawn art beautiful.
“I do wish that may be it was fire-proof,” said Nicole, a 27-year-old teacher who declined to give her second name.
“As we see all over the news and all over, the anti-Trump supporters are very violent, vicious people,” she added.
She, like Lillian Christ, 74, said it was a question of free speech — sacrosanct in America and enshrined in the first amendment of the nation’s Constitution.
If it had been a Clinton poster, Trump-supporting Christ said she would have felt the same way.
“It doesn’t matter which candidate it was, it’s the same thing, it’s not fair,” she said.
While some Trump supporters in the neighborhood voiced concern as he slumps in the polls following a series of missteps, they believed he could still win the White House in November.
“The last five or six days, I know that’s not the highest bar to set, but I think he’s done a great job staying on message,” said Joseph Borelli, a city council member and co-chair of the Trump campaign in New York state.
“As long as he keeps doing that, we will be fine.”
Within hours, Trump sailed back into choppy waters over remarks that critics interpreted as incitement of violence against Clinton.