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Owners of Mexican restaurant north of Tucson targeted on social media after Trump rally

Owners of Mexican restaurant north of Tucson targeted on social media after Trump rally

UPDATE: Trump tweets support for owners of restaurant north of Tucson

The owners of a Mexican restaurant in Catalina are fending off social media attacks after appearing in the VIP area at Donald Trump's Phoenix campaign rally last week.

A member of the Grupo de Palfeis Facebook group on Wednesday posted a screengrab image from the Feb. 19 rally that showed Sammy's Mexican Grill owner Betty Rivas standing behind Trump, donning a red cowboy hat emblazoned with "Latinos Love Trump."

That post on Grupo de Palfeis, which is a marketplace where its 109,000 members can advertise goods and services, attracted more than 230 comments — pretty much all of them negative.

The conversation then moved to Sammy's restaurant's social media including its Yelp and Google reviews. 

“Very ugly stuff. They are saying nasty stuff about the restaurant," owner Jorge Rivas said Friday, a day after he and his wife posted a video on Facebook defending their rights as "naturalized American citizens" to vote, support and meet whomever they please.

"Just because we are Latinos, it doesn't mean that we have to feel like every other Latino in this country," Rivas said in the video. "We are individuals and we feel that we have the constitutional right to meet and support whoever we want."

This is the second time that the couple and their restaurant at 16502 N. Oracle Road have been the target of Tucsonans opposed to Trump largely because of his immigration policies. In 2016, the couple was on the receiving end of nasty phone calls and minor vandalism to their far northwest valley restaurant after Betty Rivas was invited on stage with Trump during his March 2016 campaign rally at Tucson Arena.

Jorge Rivas said they have gotten a few nasty phone calls this time, but no one has caused any damage to the restaurant, which they opened in 1996, or made threats of violence.

Rivas said that the online attacks have had little to no impact on his business, which draws the bulk of its customers from Catalina, SaddleBrooke and the far end of Oro Valley. 

"People know us quite well in this area. I feel more than anything they know who we are. We are not mean, bad or racist people," said Rivas, the father of three. "They know what they see posted online is a bunch of crap."

Rivas said the people posting negative comments about Sammy's “are just wasting their time. They are not going to achieve their goal of running us out of business.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch


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