MASSENA - A group of approximately two dozen tattooed pit bull owners gathered at Mojo Rising Tattoos, located across from the Massena Town Hall on Monday to voice their displeasure with recent comments made by Mayor James F. Hidy.
Members of the group, who invited the mayor to their event earlier in the day, pressed Mr. Hidy for an apology, something which the mayor did not give in a manner satisfactory to them.
The quote you had was, Im not against people with benefits, but Im against people with tattoos and pit bulls and us supporting their habits, said Gabe Houle, a former resident of Massena, who now resides in Norfolk.
Mr. Hidy responded, So if you comprehend what I was saying, thats not what it was meant to be. So let me clarify again, Im against anyone who doesnt pay into the system, but they can use those debit cards to get money out of them to do whatever they want.
Morgan St. Louis, who owns and operates MoJo Rising, said thats not the message the mayor relayed with his original comments.
None of us here are upset about anything else in that article, except for the very last quote. You lumped every one of us with tattoos and pit bulls into that, whether you want to think or comprehend that you did or not, she said. All of us taxpaying people are here to say that what you said and how you said it was wrong. Theres nobody here who owns pit bulls and tattoos that is one welfare and causing fraud thats upset.
Mr. Hidy assured the people gathered that his comments were not directed at them.
That was not a statement directed at you folks. It was a statement against people fraudulently using welfare dollars to get what you got, he said, to which Heather Law, formerly of Massena but now of Brasher, replied, Well thats what you should have said.
Mr. Hidy replied, Let me ask you, have you ever said anything you regretted?
Ms. Law replied, Not as a public, elected official, to which Mr. Hidy replied, Well you know what, were human too.
Ms. St. Louis then stated that all anyone there was looking for was an apology, and thats when the meeting grew heated.
If anybody took that out of context to mean anything other that what my initial comments were, I am sorry they did that, Mr. Hidy said.
Brandon Bolster, Massena, was among those not happy with the apology.
So youre apologizing for everyone getting upset over what you said? he asked, to which Mr. Hidy replied, Absolutely.
Thats bull ——, Mr. Bolster then said.
If thats the way you took it, I apologize, Mr. Hidy said.
Mr. Bolster then said thats not what they were seeking an apology for.
We wanted the apology for the original statement itself, lumping everyone into one category because of some jackasses.
Mr. Hidy explained that lumping people together was never his intent.
I was not lumping everyone into one category, he said. It was the fraudulent use of welfare dollars I was talking about. Hows that sound? he asked.
Mr. Houle replied, Thats much better.
Ms. Law said in her eyes the purpose of the gathering was to educate the mayor.
I just want you to realize there are people out there who abuse the system and dont have tattoos or pit bulls, she said.
Yes, I know that, Mr. Hidy replied.
Well, you shouldnt have said people with tattoos and pit bulls, Ms. Law said, before Mr. Hidy said, Well I shouldnt have got out of bed that morning.
Shortly after that Mr. Hidy left the meeting, while the tattooed pit bull owners lingered, discussing what had just happened.
Ms. St. Louis who visited the mayor in his office Monday afternoon said she tried to explain to Mr. Hidy why people were upset.
I tried to explain this is bigger than tattoos and pit bulls. This is making an ignorant statement and stereotyping people by the way they look or the animal they choose to own, and thats unacceptable, she said. He has said people wanted to hide behind fake names. I said, Here we are. Heres the faces of the people you lumped into a stereotype. All the hard working, tax paying town people.
Mr. Hidy said Tuesday afternoon he can recall Ms. St. Louis telling him that she agreed with him.
It was pleasing to me that Morgan came in prior to her gathering and outlined to me her displeasure of knowing certain individuals came to her for her services and her knowing that those services were being paid for on the backs of tax payers like her and those who were present in her shop yesterday afternoon, he said. Whether they know it or not, theyre all agreeing with me and I thank them for that.
Prior to being pressed for an apology, Mr. Hidy outlined his position.
I spent 28 years in Detroit, Michigan, he said. Pit bulls were trained to do one of two things in the city. Theyre either going to fight them or theyre going to use them for the drug trade. They have even gone as far as cutting their vocals so they cant bark when the police are coming. The police cant hear them and then they attack the police.
Mr. Hidy said that, not Massena, is where is jaded feelings toward pit bulls comes from.
Thats what pit bulls are used for in Detroit. Thats my experience with pit bulls, he said. Are they a good dog? They probably are a good dog. Theyre not my dog of choice. I dont like em, Ill take a poodle any day.
The mayor also spoke about tattoos.
My daughter has tattoos. My sister probably has more tattoos than most of you, he said. I love my sister. I love my daughter.
Following the meeting, several people said they remained displeased with the mayor.
All I wanted him to say was, Im sorry, I shouldnt have worded it that way, Ms. St. Louis said.
One of the people at the meeting admitted to currently receiving welfare benefits.
Ive worked all my life, but I am unemployed right now, due to a medical condition and Im on welfare, but my dogs are well taken care of, Michael Tidmore of Massena said. Big babies is all they are. Would he rather I didnt feed them?
Mr. Tidmore said he owns two pit bulls and has roughly 30 tattoos. He also said he doubted the authenticity of the mayors words.
That was not an Im sorry statement, he just said that to get everybody off his —-, he said.
As she hung up the signs held by people standing outside while they waited for mayor to arrive, Ms. St. Louis also questioned the mayors sincerity.
If he had came here and taken us seriously I would have taken them down, she said referring to signs that said, Proud, tattooed, pit bull owner, inked and proud, proudly inked, and Im employed. Im proudly inked. Im a pit bull owner. I dont fit your stereotype.
Prior to the rally, one sign was already hanging in the window and could be clearly read from the steps of town hall.
That sign read, Not all tattooed people or pit bull owners fit your stereotypes. Think before you speak.