Store owner protests foreign aid package
The Desert Sun – Palm Springs, Calif.
The Desert Sun
An outspoken Palm Desert business owner who had the plug pulled three years ago on outdoor music at her El Paseo restaurant is making more noise.
But this time, it’s in the form of a large handmade sign posted Thursday in the window of “Denise Roberge” 73-995 El Paseo, an art gallery and jewelry store named after the owner that sits next to her Augusta Restaurant.
It reads: “No tax dollars to Muslim Arab Spring,” with an American flag beside it.
“Everybody needs to stand up. Enough is enough,” Roberge said. “Stop giving away money we don’t have.”
“Arab Spring” refers to recent political uprisings in many Middle Eastern countries.
Roberge said she’s angry about a recent pledge by the United States, as a member of the G8, to contribute to $40 billion in economic aid to Middle Eastern countries showing promise of democratic reform, especially Egypt and Tunisia.
The G8 is made up of the eight most industrialized nations who come together annually to solve specific world problems.
No stranger to public attention, Roberge held a rally in 2008 in an attempt to save her amplified music permit at the popular Augusta Restaurant. Residents in the area complained about the noise.
Close to 100 people — many wearing T-shirts bearing musical notes and the slogan “Let It Be” — packed council chambers, but the council revoked the permit.
City ordinances require advertising signs to be permanent, either etched or printed, not handmade. Many business centers also have rules for their tenants, but Roberge owns her buildings.
The city attorney has reviewed the sign and decided Roberge is within her rights, according to Tony Bagato, principal city planner.
“We can’t regulate freedom of speech,” Bagato said. “She’s protected by the Constitution.”
The city has received no complaints about the sign, he added.
Roberge said she’s not afraid of retaliation and has received a lot of positive response from customers and passersby.
One was Jan Lupia, who stopped by the store Monday.
“I can only believe that true Americans don’t have a clue. Otherwise, there’d be an uprising,” Lupia said. “That’s a woman of courage.”
Meanwhile, nearby business owners said they were surprised to see handmade signs on El Paseo, but declined to comment about the message due to Roberge’s stature in the business community.
“She’s a very successful business person,” said Claire Joles, owner of A Gallery. “She has a big following from all over.”
Roberge is planning on closing her doors for the summer today and leaving the sign up until she returns in October.
Roberge and Lupia discussed plans to visit Israel to attend a Glenn Beck rally titled “Restoring Courage” over the summer.
The rally encourages people of all faiths to stand with Israel against a two-state solution to conflict with Palestinians.
Roberge said she’s also considering holding a rally on the grass outside her art gallery in the fall.
“Everybody is so politically correct,” she said. “Everybody is so afraid to say ‘Muslim.'”