Former President Donald Trump had barely finished announcing his 2024 re-election campaign before he was at the center of a controversy in Connecticut, this time in the small town of Litchfield County, Washington.
A property owner’s massive pro-Trump banner along Route 202 drew the ire of some residents and a warning from the town.
But Wayne Waldron, an ardent Trump supporter since 2015, said he has already taken much of the tide in his political views, and plans to keep the flag in place.
“I’ve been down this road with the town many times before. There have been five zoning enforcement officers,” Waldron said Tuesday.
“We have been contacted by lawyers who are ready to take on this case for free,” said his wife Bridget, co-owner of the property. “What will scare people? They have meltdowns.”
But the town contends that the problem isn’t the message — a photo of Trump with the words “My president is your president, the president of the United States” — but rather the size. The flag is at least 10 feet high and more than 30 feet long.
“The roof over the porch was lost and it came down to the ground. We can’t control the content, but we can control the size,” said First Selectman James Brinton. “We have specific rules for signage in the business district.”
Resident Robin Provey agrees, saying she’s amazed to see such a huge Washington sign.
“I will drive right away from him every day. I don’t want what he says, it’s too big,” he said. “He has freedom of speech. But we have zoning rules: Union Savings Bank can’t carry anything that big, the White Horse Tavern can’t, why can it?”
Provey was one of 15 people who complained to the town after the sign went up early last Friday afternoon, according to Brixton. He sent a letter warning the Waldrons that he had descents from the village.
Washington prohibits temporary signs larger than 30-by-45 feet, and requires businesses to cover or remove them after closing each day.
The Waldrons got a huge banner two years ago from David LaManna and Mark Dorais of American Patriots United, a conservative group that advocates for law enforcement. Wayne Waldron said Friday that he had reported the news to the Trump campaign a few days earlier.
“It’s a celebration for an announcement,” he said. “I’ve picked him up since he got off the escalator in 2015. I know he’s not perfect, but he means a lot to the country.”
The Waldrons have shown their messages to Trump over the years of building Route 202, and say they have paid a steep price in lost revenue with anonymous retaliation.
“I do casts, lands, rocks, structures and renovations,” Wayne Waldron said. “I put my head in the trap when I took the signs. I used to do all the work for the people around here, but they’re not happy with me supporting Trump.”
He estimates he lost $2 million in sales since 2015.
“I haven’t had a job in four years. My clients around Washington have all gone on me,” he said.
“It’s a waste, they have blackened our business. He can’t get a job in the five towns around us,” Bridget Waldron said. “We had people shouting at us, littering all night. Someone left a bag of dead fetal animals there. And it was done anonymously.”
Wayne Waldron said he’s faced complaints since the new flag went up at his property, which had been a general store and later an antique shop before he and his wife bought it years ago. He said he would update slowly.
Some passing motorists shout obscenities or flip the middle finger, he said, but the response to the new flag is mostly positive.
“There are those who thank me, about 80-20,” he said. “Some of these people pull up Porsches with New York bowls to say thank you.”
Brinton said the town enforces its own rules, and said it would be different if the sign were in a residential zone.
“Then if it’s not in the city or state road and not a traffic hazard, you don’t have the power,” he said. “I have seen villages where they have enmity and put up signs about each other, that is civil action. But in the business district we have judges.”
Bridget Waldron said the flag serves as a tarp, protecting a broken car that is waiting for a mechanic. But some residents find it unattractive and distracting to drivers.
“It’s a billboard. Should we put up billboards in Washington?” He asked for a provision. “This just isn’t the right place for something of that magnitude.”