Written by: Ed Shanahan
Andrea Dick is a die-hard supporter of former President Donald Trump and thinks the election was stolen from him, though that declare has been totally discredited. She doesn’t like President Joe Biden, and that’s placing it mildly.
Her opinions are clear within the blunt slogans blaring from the banners exterior her New Jersey dwelling: “Don’t Blame Me/I Voted for Trump” and a number of other others that assault Biden in crude phrases. A number of function a phrase that some individuals discover notably objectionable however whose use the Supreme Court docket way back dominated couldn’t be restricted merely to guard these it offends.
When native officers requested her to take down a number of of the banners that they stated violated an anti-obscenity ordinance, she refused. Now, she is resisting a choose’s order that she accomplish that and pledging to battle it in court docket on free speech grounds.
“It’s my First Modification proper,” she stated in an interview on Monday, “and I’m going to stay with that.”
In a rustic the place the political fault traces are more and more jagged and deep, Dick’s case is the most recent of a number of such disputes to spotlight the fragile steadiness native officers should generally strike between defending free speech and responding to issues about language that some residents discover offensive.
Dick, 54, stated she acquired the banners — which can be found from Amazon and different retailers — earlier this yr, however didn’t grasp them on the house in Roselle Park the place she lives along with her mom, or on the fence exterior, till Memorial Day.
“One thing will need to have gotten me labored up,” she stated.
Shortly after the vacation weekend, she stated, she turned conscious that some Roselle Park residents, noting that her dwelling was close to a college, had been upset concerning the language on the banners and concerning the potential for passing youngsters to see it.
Dick, whose mom, Patricia Dilascio, owns the home, stated that no youngsters lived on the block and that no youngsters routinely stroll by on their technique to the varsity.
However the city’s mayor, Joseph Signorello III, stated he had acquired a number of complaints concerning the banners, which he handed on to the borough’s code enforcement officer. Residents of Roselle Park, a city of 14,000 individuals a couple of 40-minute drive from Occasions Sq., voted overwhelmingly for Biden in November.
“This isn’t about politics in any manner,” stated Signorello, a Democrat. He added that officers would have taken the identical steps if the indicators expressed opposition to Trump utilizing comparable language. “It’s about decency.”
After visiting the house, the code enforcement officer, Judy Mack, cited Dilascio for violating a Roselle Park ordinance that prohibits the show or exhibition of obscene materials inside the borough.
Mack stated that in additional than 12 years as a code enforcement officer in Roselle Park, she had by no means invoked the ordinance earlier than. She additionally stated that whereas Signorello had handed on the residents’ complaints, he had not directed her to take any particular motion.
“I’m solely doing my job,” Mack stated.
Dick was given a number of days to take away the banners, Mack stated. When she didn’t, she was given a summons to look in court docket.
At that look, final Thursday, Decide Gary A. Bundy of Roselle Park Municipal Court docket gave Dilascio, because the property proprietor, every week to take away three of the 10 indicators displayed on the property — those together with the offending phrase — or face fines of $250 a day.
“There are various strategies for the defendant to precise her pleasure or displeasure with sure political figures in america,” Bundy stated in his ruling, noting the proximity of Dick’s dwelling to a college.
The usage of vulgarity, he continued, “exposes elementary-age youngsters to that phrase, day-after-day, as they go by the residence.”
“Freedom of speech isn’t merely an absolute proper,” he added, noting later that “the case isn’t a case about politics. It’s a case, pure and easy, about language. This ordinance doesn’t limit political speech,” Nj.com reported on Friday.
Jarrid Kantor, Roselle Park’s borough lawyer, applauded the choose’s resolution, saying that native officers had been cautious to not make a difficulty out of the political nature of Dick’s banners and had centered as an alternative on the potential hurt to youngsters.
“We predict he received it good,” Kantor stated.
However Thomas Healy, a regulation professor at Seton Corridor College with experience in constitutional points, disagreed.
As I say within the article, this can be a easy case from a constitutional standpoint – so easy I wouldn’t even apply it to a regulation faculty examination. Profanity, with out something extra, is protected speech, not obscenity. https://t.co/JOrmGabtRv
— Thomas Healy (@HealyProf) July 20, 2021
Citing a 1971 Supreme Court docket resolution, Cohen v. California, that turned on the query of whether or not the identical phrase at challenge in Dick’s case was obscene, Healy stated the phrase clearly didn’t qualify as obscene speech within the context of the political banners.
Conflicts just like the one involving Dick have flared up this yr on Lengthy Island, New York; in Indiana, Tennessee and Connecticut; and a couple of half-hour’s drive south of Roselle Park, in Hazlet, New Jersey.
Hazlet officers acquired complaints like these in Roselle Park when a home-owner put up the same anti-Biden banner there, Mayor Tara Clark stated.
Citing an anti-nuisance ordinance, Clark stated, officers approached the home-owner final month and requested that he take away the offending flag, however they didn’t take any steps to power him to take action.
“We knew that there have been residents who had been upset,” she stated. “however we additionally know that free speech is protected underneath the Structure of america.”
Although some individuals might need been sad that the banner couldn’t be pressured down, Clark stated that she and her fellow Hazlet officers felt it was vital to face up for the First Modification.
“It ended there,” she stated. (The home-owner took the banner down final week, she stated.)
As for Dick, she and her mom have about two weeks to enchantment Bundy’s ruling to New Jersey Superior Court docket. He stated the each day fines would start accruing on Thursday if the offending banners remained up, no matter whether or not Dick and her mom selected to enchantment. In the event that they do enchantment, he instructed they take the banners down pending the result.
On Monday, Dick didn’t sound like she deliberate to observe that recommendation. She stated she was searching for a brand new lawyer and was dedicated to seeing the case by means of.
“I’m not backing down,” she stated.