In the weeks following Donald Trump's victory in Massachusetts' Republican primary with 49 percent of the vote, signs supporting the bombastic New York real estate mogul caused unease in East Boston.
For many in the heavily Latino area, it was especially unsettling when a large Trump banner with his name and campaign slogan – "Make America Great Again" – went up above the entryway to a neighborhood laundromat, the Soap Box on Meridan Street.
Trump launched his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination last year with a tirade against illegal immigration, labeling Mexicans who entered the United States illegally "rapists' and "criminals," and vowing to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Many of the Trump signs are gone now, including the one at the laundromat. It’s been replaced with a campaign sign for Joseph Boncore, a Democrat who was elected the district’s state senator in a March special election.
David Tirone, the New Hampshire resident and Eastie native who owns the building where the sign was placed, said he let Boncore’s campaign put up the sign because he is friendly with the politician.
Tirone also said before Trump ran, he was a lifelong Democrat, and that he’s put political signs up on the laundromat’s prominent entryway in Eastie’s Central Square primarily for Democrats running for local positions for about 25 years.
The Boncore sign is only temporary. It was tacked on top of the Trump sign, the red and blue border of which is still visible. The Trump sign will be uncovered eventually and will stay there at least until November, Tirone said.
“Once this election is over I’ll be siding back with the Democrats but for this one I gotta go with him,” Tirone said.
The sign upset neighbors earlier this year, as a majority of the laundromat’s customers are Latino. The situation spawnedfront-page coveragein the Boston Globe and a radio storyfrom WGBH’s Philip Martinthat played to a global audiencethrough Public Radio International.
Neighbors told reporters Trump’s rhetoricmade them fearfulof a wave of deportations or of hate-fueled attacks like the beating of a Mexican immigrant homeless man in Boston last August.
“People are legitimately worried,” Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said at the time.
That put the Soap Box laundromat, with its prominent location on a busy corner in Eastie, in the spotlight.
Tirone said the attention didn’t hurt his business.
“It brought more customers, because a lot of Trump supporters came to the laundromat after the stories,” Tirone said in an interview last week. “It didn’t hurt me.”
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Tirone, who believes Trump could overcome long odds and win in Massachusetts, said he supports Trump because he believes the candidate would bring more manufacturing jobs back to the country. He doesn’t support Trump’s aggressive immigration positions, he said, and he dismissed the candidate’s more outrageous comments as “stupid” and that he “just does that to get free publicity.”
Alfred “Freddy” Puopolo, a landlord who lives in Groveland, also put Trump signs on properties he owns in Eastie.
Puopolo —a 69-year-old veteran who described himself as conservative politically – said he put up a half-dozen or so Trump signs on his buildings, but most were either torn down or vandalized.
“That ain’t playing fair,” said Puopolo.