Desperados owner withdraws Berkshire Trendsetters Award nomination amid organization's concerns over past racially charged Facebook posts

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NORTH ADAMS — The owner of the Mexican restaurant Desperados has withdrawn his nomination for a Berkshire Trendsetters Award after screenshots surfaced of racially charged Facebook posts he made in 2012 and 2014.

Peter Oleskiewicz was in the running for 1Berkshire's "Newcomer of the Year" award, but multiple individuals have reached out to the organization and expressed concern with the finalist's history on social media, according to CEO Jonathan Butler.

"The material that was shared with us from the finalist in question, we felt crossed a line. Beyond that, we felt that there was some disparaging comments that were made that could be construed as racial slurs," Butler said. "That's nothing as an organization we would ever condone."

The organization asked the restaurateur to withdraw his nomination, and Oleskiewicz obliged. A winner will be chosen from the four remaining "Newcomer of the Year" nominees, Butler said. The Berkshire Trendsetter Awards is scheduled for Sept. 13.

Oleskiewicz, who briefly launched a campaign and appeared on the 2017 preliminary mayoral election ballot in North Adams, purchased the long-running Mexican restaurant on Eagle Street late last year.

He told The Eagle that the comments are years old, have long been deleted and that he will "admit to my mistakes."

"Pete Oleskiewicz of 2012 and Pete Oleskiewicz of 2018 are two different people," he said.

Screenshots of Oleskiewicz's Facebook activity were aggregated on a Tumblr page titled "Stop North Adams Hate." The combination of memes, posts and comments frequently targets Mexicans, Muslims and people of color.

"What the f---. Speak english. I am on my lunch break, there are 13 people at 3 tables. All speaking spanish very loudly. Sorry but this is my view.. If your here, speak the language," Oleskiewicz stated in a post dated Jan. 17, 2012.

On the same post, Oleskiewicz commented that he wanted to "go punch them all in the face," and that he will "probably" have to be arrested "for beating them."

In a June 2012 post, Oleskiewicz asked why President Barack Obama had not "been assassinated yet," and took issue with Obama for granting "amnesty through executive order" to immigrants.

And in June 2014, Oleskiewicz shared a Berkshire Eagle article about then-Gov. Deval Patrick's efforts to provide two shelters for unaccompanied children who cross the country's border.

"I know of a place where they can be sent. MEXICO," he wrote.

In sharing another article, in September 2014, Oleskiewicz wrote "F--- the Muslims." In a 2014 post, Oleskiewicz advocated that "someone should blow up the CNN building."

"I'm a different person," Oleskiewicz told The Eagle. "People change between then and now. I live a whole new life. I live my life to work and volunteer and donate."

Oleskiewicz transitioned to the restaurant from his previous career as a commercial truck driver.

"A lot of my views have changed," Oleskiewicz said. "I spent 60 to 70 hours [per week] in a truck by myself. Now I physically get out and talk to these people."

The old posts have been deleted.

"I took it down, I realized it was wrong of me to do," Oleskiewicz said. "Maybe I had an epiphany, I don't know. Maybe I was a hothead."

He does not expect the posts to impact his business, saying he has a loyal following of customers.

"They all know me and I know them," Oleskiewicz said.

Keith Bona, owner of Berkshire Emporium and Antiques on Main Street, said he and Oleskiewicz have "disagreed on plenty." But Bona described him as "extremely charitable" supporter of the Roots Teen Center and donor to the city's Fourth of July fireworks.

"He sees the community in a different light now that he's entrenched in it," Bona said. "Still rough on the edges, but a teddy bear inside."

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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