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North Ridgeville sign draws protesters, visitors

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    Kari Foreman of Carlisle Township and Richard Gast of North Ridgeville protest a sign in front of Northridge Auto Repair on Lorain Road in North Ridgeville.

    BRUCE BISHOP / CHRONICLE

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — For nearly 40 years a local mechanic has used signs outside his shops to display messages about a variety of issues and people.

Jay Linn, 61, owner of Northridge Auto Repair and Service, 32499 Lorain Road, has directed his latest sign toward transgender people.

“If you don’t know who you identify as pull down your pants and look,” the sign reads.

Linn, a Republican who said he voted for Donald Trump, serves as Olmsted Falls City Council president, and he isn’t concerned if the LGBTQ community takes offense.

Linn said he has a gay brother who lives in Michigan who has been with the same partner for 39 years. That brother recently visited and they get along fine.

“I don’t share his views in sexuality, and he doesn’t share mine,” Linn said. “But we’re brothers.”

Linn also doesn’t find it insensitive to display the message about 4 miles away from where transgender woman Cemia Dove was murdered in 2013.

Dove, whom the Plain Dealer reported was born as Carl Acoff but identified as a woman, was stabbed 40 times by Olmsted Township resident Andrey Bridges, who dumped her body in a pond near his apartment.

News outlets reported that Bridges murdered Dove in a fit of rage after hiring her as a prostitute and discovering she was biologically a man. Bridges was sentenced to life in prison in November 2013.

Nearly 90 transgender people were murdered across the United States in 2016, according to the International Transgender Day of Remembrance website, which keeps statistics.

Linn said murder isn’t ever justified, but he also said he won’t apologize for his beliefs as a Christian. People are born the way God created them as men or women, he said.

“My beliefs are you don’t need to identify with anything except what God put you here as,” Linn said. “The message is that I identify as what God made me and put me here as and nothing else.”

Linn said no one entered his shop to criticize his message. However, a couple of people did stand outside his shop Friday in the cold to protest what they said was a hateful and intolerant message.

Retired Elyria Schools teachers Kari Foreman and Richard Gast, both 61, held signs with messages like “Light and Love Will Prevail.”

Gast called the sign “terrible.”

“I can accept political signs, but I cannot accept blatant discrimination and ignorance,” Gast said. “This one just pushed me over the edge. The present political climate is what’s allowing people like him to do these things and think it’s OK.”

Foreman said this particular sign is an expression of hate and nothing more.

“I had students in the LGBT community and I have dear friends as well,” Foreman said. “To say nothing is to tolerate hate, in my opinion.”

Linn isn’t likely to quit displaying his opinions on the sign outside his business. His first such sign was erected at a previous shop on Clague and Lorain roads in 1979 when gas went above $1 a gallon for the first time.

Since that time, he’s had messages directed at Dennis Kucinich, sports teams and an array of other issues.

Linn said he takes jabs as he sees fit. He believes his simple messages lighten the moods of countless commuters as they hop on the highway near his shop to head off to the daily grind in Cleveland.

“I have to tell you this is the best sign I’ve ever had,” Linn said. “There’s been 30 or 40 people who have stopped in today, taken business cards and told me what great signs I do. They’ve stopped in, shook our hands and said keep up the great work. A couple made appointments for cars.”

Contact Jon Wysochanski at 329-7123 or jwysochanski@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonWysochanski.



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