Divided response to the Sarah Sanders incident is ‘a microcosm of what’s going on in the country’, say local residents

Last Friday night, when Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Red Hen, decided to eject the White House press secretary from her small restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, she could not have had any idea of the row she was about to ignite. Sarah Sanders, who was already midway through her meal, was asked to leave after Wilkinson’s staff voted to eject her in protest against the president’s policy of separating children from their parents at the Mexican border.

Since then the rustic, farm-to-table eatery has been at the centre of a national debate about civility and politics. And the reaction has overwhelmed the restaurant. It has been forced to close, having had eggs – and excrement – thrown at it, and it has been besieged by angry protesters. Another business in Lexington, with no connection to the Red Hen, received a bomb threat. On Saturday, scores of “Bikers for Trump” are planning to gather outside.

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