HAMILTON, NJ -- Hamilton's Stone Terrace by John Henry's has been the scene of many community events from high school proms to election nights, school fundraisers to weddings. But, on Thursday, the locally renowned restaurant and facility became the center of the local debate on racism in America 

A day earlier inflammatory, racist social media posts by Joseph Russo, who has identified himself on social media at a co-owner and chef at Stone Terrace, began circulating. Russo is the brother-in-law of owners John and Catherine Henry. 

Some of Russo's posts included: "Black Lives Matter is Bulls**t"; a picture of a Caucasian police officer kneeling on suspect under arrest saying "Hey, NFL ...here's how to take a knee."; a doctored photo of First Ladies Melania Trump and Michelle Obama at the 2017 inaugural in which Obama is wearing a maid's hat and apron; and another falsely claiming the George Floyd attended his own funeral. 

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These posts spurred widespread calls in Hamilton and neighboring communities to boycott the Stone Terrace. In addition, a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest was quickly organized for 6:00 pm Thursday night at the Kuser Road restaurant. 

John and Catherine Henry issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying "We are deeply disturbed and saddened by the highly inappropriate social media comments of our former Executive Chef Joseph Russo that were made recently. Rightfully, the comments were roundly criticized from all corners.   

"We have for 35 years had the great fortune of welcoming all members of our community as guests at the Stone Terrace by John Henry’s.  We have through those years worked hard to develop a business reputation that at its foundation is respect for all our guests, and we have worked hard to play a positive role in our community.   

"The comments of Joseph Russo were awful and hurtful and insensitive - - and we can reassure you that no aspect of those comments reflect views held by the staff or Catherine and I," added Henry. "We believe our community knows through the manner in which we have conducted business through the last three decades, the values we hold as owners of the Stone Terrace. We’re hopeful our community will as well recognize the sincerity of our apology for the pain caused by the comments of Mr. Russo."

Calls by TAPinto Hamilton/Robbinsville to the Stone Terrace have not been returned at time of story publication.  

Hamilton Township Mayor Jeff Martin issued a statement on Thursday saying "I’m saddened and horrified to see Mr. Russo holds such hateful and abhorrent views. Had I known he held these racist feelings, I would never have attended, supported, or held events at his restaurant. I unequivocally condemn his words and his disregard for human decency."

"Hamilton’s diversity is one of the best parts of our Township. We have residents of all races, religions, ages, creeds, nationalities, and beliefs.  We have people who live in urban, suburban and rural communities.  Like America, our diversity is our strength," added Martin.  "Clearly, a much larger discussion on race and racism, on diversity, on compassion, and on acceptance is not only needed, but necessary."

Martin said that he was leading a "discussion with members of our law enforcement and minority community" on Thursday.

"I am happy to lead and participate in those discussions locally, but they must also occur across our state and country.  Until we come together to ensure hate has no home, we will continue to face the ugliness that is racism," added Martin.

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