Jan. 26, 2021 By Michael Dorgan
A local candidate for city council has taken issue with a large banner hanging in front of a house in Kew Gardens that claims Joe Biden’s inauguration marked the beginning of socialism.
Aleda Gagarin, who is running as a progressive to represent District 29, came across the banner at 82-28 Abingdon Rd. Sunday and posted an image of the house and the sign to Twitter.
The banner reads: “January 20, 2021, Death of Democracy, The Beginning of Socialism.” The date marks the day Joe Biden was sworn into office as the 46th President of the United States.
The banner also features a hammer and sickle as well as an image of Lady Liberty crouched over with her hands in her face. The banner drapes between two flag poles in the middle of the front garden that each fly the USA flag.
“It’s just so silly, the person is clearly misunderstood,” Gagarin told the Queens Post. “Joe Biden is certainly not a socialist.”
Gagarin noted that Biden doesn’t even support universal healthcare.
“The sign also uses communist imagery that shows a clear lack of understanding,” she added.
Michael Ricatto, who owns the house and put up the banner, disputed Gagarin’s claims and said he knows exactly what he is talking about. Biden’s policies are socialist, he said, and all hardworking taxpayers will have to pay more due to his left-wing policies.
Furthermore, Ricatto added that there is little difference between socialism and communism and he considers socialism as communism’s “little brother.”
“We worked hard for years to amass what we have and I don’t like being forced to support someone else,” Ricatto said.
Ricatto believes that American democracy is under threat and claims that the presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. He argues that the democratic process was upended.
“There were too many ambiguities that were never reported and most of the media lean left,” he claims. None were proven in court.
However, Gagarin says it was Trump who put democracy at risk.
“Trump was trying to kill democracy, he was trying to overthrow our actual government, that’s very clearly true,” she said, referring to the attacks on the Capitol on Jan 6.
Gagarin said that while she was offended by the sign she respects his right to free speech.
She said she was more offended by previous signs put up by Ricatto that expressed his outright support for Trump. She said that Trump’s policies targeted undocumented residents in Queens.
“I don’t agree with propping up a fascist whose policies terrified our immigrant brothers and sisters,” Gagarin said, referring to the rise in ICE arrests in Queens under Trump.
Trump’s wall, she added, was “a waste of money, stupid, childish and inherently racist.”
Ricatto has courted controversy relating to his signs in the past.
In 2016, his pro-Trump lawn signs were constantly stolen. In response, he stapled “wanted” signs on public trees in an effort to catch the people swiping them. The Parks Dept. fined him for damaging the trees.
Nevertheless, Ricatto said he will not let anyone deter him from exercising his right to free speech.
“They are not going to shut me up, they will never shut me up,” he said.
He also said that people are afraid to voice their opinions due to a fear of backlash from the left and that some people have thanked him for putting up his signs.
“There is a silent majority out there, not so much in Queens but there are enclaves of right-leaning people.”
Donald Trump saw his support in Queens rise in the 2020 election with 26.8 percent of citizens voting for him – up from 21.8 percent in 2016.
Ricatto said he has not received much trouble for putting up his signs but joked that a person has been sending him tissues in the post since Biden was elected. The tissues are for Ricatto to wipe his tears since Trump lost the election.
He said that while he disagrees with Biden’s position on a myriad of issues he wishes him well and is not hoping for him to fail.
“We are all one big airliner and Joe Biden is now pilot, I am not hoping for him to crash.”