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Owner of a Burned Pro-Trump Sign Says Fire Was a Hate Crime

By  Kathleen Culliton and Nicholas Rizzi | August 8, 2016 12:16pm 

 Sam Pirozzolo's 12-foot-tall
Sam Pirozzolo's 12-foot-tall "T" sign was set on fire in Staten Island on Sunday morning and the NYPD have classified it as arson.
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Courtesy of Sam Pirozzolo

CASTLETON CORNERS  — A Trump supporter whose 12-foot-tall yard sign was set on fire in Staten Island wants the attack treated as a hate crime.

“This is like the Ku Klux Klan coming into my yard telling me I need to shut up,” said Sam Pirozzolo, 52, who found his giant T" sign burning in his front yard at about 1 a.m. on Sunday.

“How could that not be a hate crime?”

The NYPD is treating the attack as arson but not a hate crime, which is classified as a crime that targets a person's “race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation,” police said Monday.

But Pirozzolo believes that he was targeted because of his political beliefs and that should be covered in the classification.

“Setting a fire to suppress my first amendment rights as an American citizen made me feel horrible,” said Pirozzolo.

“We’re so busy creating special laws for people of a certain class, we forgot about protecting everyone.”

A witness driving on Manor Road saw the blaze Sunday and alerted Pirozzolo that the sign was on fire, police said.

Fire marshals called to the scene told Pirozzolo his sign had been doused with gasoline, he said. The FDNY said they're investigating the incident.

Pirozzolo commissioned the pro-Trump sign, made out of foam insulation material, in May from artist Scott LoBaido, a self-described “creative patriot” whose local work includes a painting of a rifle with a sleeping baby and American flag outside Staten Island’s PS 90 and a bicep-flexing Ronald Reagan mural on Hylan Boulevard.

“When I heard they torched it I was pretty upset,” said LoBaido, 51, who made the artwork so Trump-fans can show their support "without being bullied."  

“Art is to provoke emotion but not to the extent of violence.”

LoBaido has already started making a replacement "T" sign, which he expects to reinstall later this week.