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Menlo Park Small Business Suffers Backlash Over Staffer's Attendance at Trump DC Rally

MENLO PARK (KPIX) -- Two Bay Area women who attended the Trump rally on Wednesday in Washington D.C. are facing public shaming and financial backlash. One of those women is a business owner in Menlo Park.

Suzi Tinsley has felt so much heat online she decided Friday to close her business, Sugar Shack. Supporters have come out to drop off cards, flowers and poster boards with messages of encouragement. One supporter even stuffed money through the mail slot in front door of the business.

"Nobody should be denied their freedom of speech, whether a Republican or Democrat," said Jeffrey Vassallo, a Belmont resident who pushed several dollars through the mail slot.

Supporters say calls to boycott Sugar Shack will only deepen the divide in the country.

"We have to learn to get along no matter what side you're on. Again, this isn't a political issue for me at all. It's just, let's be kind," said Carey Mitchell, a small business owner from Redwood City who placed flowers and cards in front of the candy store.

The business owner, Suzie Tinsley, did not return KPIX requests for an interview. She told others she attended the rally and did not participate in the riot.

"Just like the Black Lives Matter protesters left, they had nothing to do with the looting. She had nothing to do with this and she's just being attacked by (people) ruthlessly," said Mitchell who referred to demonstrations that turned violent during the George Floyd protests.

Critics pointed out that actions have consequences.

"That's the right of every customer, to voice their opinion with their dollars," said Nancy Radcliffe of Redwood City.

"To give moral support and encouragement to United States citizens that incite violence is deeply embarrassing and shameful to me," said Jan, a Redwood City resident who declined to provide her last name.

Some customers said they would never shop there again. Others wrote bad reviews on Yelp which disabled the comment feature on the page.

Joe Tuman, a professor of political and legal communication studies at San Francisco State University, said this is why healing for the country will take years.

"Most of us are not in the streets fighting. Most of us live with each other, work with each other and, just like members of Congress, we disagree. And that's not a bad thing, that's actually a good thing. It's healthy to have discussions," Tuman said.

Acosta Sheet Metal in San Jose is another business that's facing backlash and getting a lot of bad reviews on Yelp. Activists claimed a rally participant who goes by the name Imelda Castro on Facebook is related to the business owner. Castro wrote on her Facebook page she was at the rally. A representative at Acosta Sheet Metal said Castro has never worked at or owned the business but that representative declined to comment on whether Castro is related to the owner.

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