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“This is America. When ordering, please speak English.”

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By Michelle Malkin  •  December 15, 2007 10:06 AM

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More than a year and a half ago, I wrote about the persecution of Joey Vento in Philadelphia (see here and here). He’s the grandson of Italian-born immigrants who owns Geno’s–the world-famous cheesesteak joint. He’s a staunch assimilationist who hung a sign up telling customers:

“This is America. When ordering, please speak English.”

The loons on the open-borders, anti-assimilationist Philadelphia City Council and the Human Relations Commission went on the attack. And that attack is still going.

The Philadelphia Daily News reports on a six-hour Human Relations Commission public hearing yesterday on charges that Vento is guilty of discrimination. Un-freaking-believable:

The commission, which enforces civil-rights laws and mediates inter-group disputes, distributes pamphlets that ask, “Are you a victim of discrimination?” – in seven languages.

Vento earns most of his cash selling one thing – cheesesteaks – and he wants you to order in one language. “This is America. When ordering, please speak English.” That’s what the sign says at Vento’s South Philly sandwich shop on 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue.

But is there anything wrong with “The Sign”? Specifically, does it violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance by discriminating against immigrants and non-English speakers who frequent Vento’s business?

That question wasn’t answered yesterday at the Arch Street Meeting House, where a three-person panel heard more than six hours of testimony from witnesses for the HRC, which wants the sign removed, and Vento, who refuses to comply.

A ruling won’t come for at least a couple of months, said Joseph Centeno, who chaired yesterday’s hearing panel. The panel will make a recommendation to the full commission, but the parties have about 60 days to file post-hearing briefs.

Vento, sporting a black leather jacket and lots of bling, showed up yesterday ready for battle, with his Atlanta-based legal team and dozens of supporters at his side. The sign, he said, posted more than two years ago, is designed to make a political statement and keep the line moving at the world-famous Geno’s Steaks.

When Vento was called to testify, the 68-year-old grandson of Italian immigrants started paraphrasing Theodore Roosevelt so quickly that the court reporter had to ask him to slow down. “To be an American, you have to be American and nothing else. For if you say you’re something else, then you’re not a true American,” Vento said, drawing on the words of the 26th president.

“I’m an American of Italian descent,” he said. “I’m not an Italian-American.”

More than 100 people attended the hearing, which had a trial-like atmosphere and ran so late that the staff of the historic meeting house wanted to close the place down.

There were pro-immigration groups, Vento loyalists and even some tears from one of his attorneys during the closing arguments – all over a 4-inch-by-9-inch bumper sticker that asks customers to order their food in English.

Fortunately, business is booming at Geno’s. If you’re in the area, drop by and show some more support.

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Contact info for the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission is here.

Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations
34 South 11th Street, 6th Floor
Philadelphia PA 19107

phone:: 215-686-4670
TTY:215-6863238
Fax: 215-686-4684
Email: pchrfaq_grp@phila.gov

W. Nick Taliaferro
Executive Director

Commissioners
Rev. James S. Allen, Sr., Chairperson
Burt Siegal, Vice Chairperson
Crystal Barnett
Joseph J. Centeno, Esquire
Roxanne E. Covington, Esquire
Rabbi William, I. Kuhn
Juan Ortiz, Jr.
Haorold L. Rush

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