Whiz With Shall Overcome


Remember Joseph Vento, the Philadelphia cheesesteak seller who started refusing to clog arteries for patrons who didn't speak English? Did you think, "Hell, there's no way I could ever sympathize with this guy"?

Life is funny.

A city agency charged with investigating discrimination plans to file a complaint Monday that questions the legality of the [English only] signs, which Vento has said are directed at the Mexican immigrants in Geno's South Philadelphia neighborhood.

Geno's "has a right to express its opinion, however offensive," she said. "But there are specific limitations on places of public accommodation, because they are supposed to be available to everyone."

Councilman Jim Kenney called the signs a "divisive and mean-spirited" blow to the city's image and this week asked Vento to remove them. Scores of Inquirer readers have said they would boycott the shop for its "Speak English" directive, while many others said they would buy Vento's steaks in solidarity.

It wasn't easy to make a martyr out of a guy who admits he's only discriminating against Mexicans (he's let Italian tourists order in Italian with no complaints), but Philadelphia's city council scoffs at challenges like that.