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 in 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. Several characteristic a phrase that some folks discover significantly objectionable however whose use the Supreme Court 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 mentioned violated an anti-obscenity ordinance, she refused. Now, she is resisting a decide’s order that she achieve this and pledging to battle it in courtroom on free speech grounds.
“It’s my First Amendment right,” she mentioned in an interview on Monday, “and I’m going to stick with that.”
In a rustic the place the political fault traces are more and more jagged and deep, Dick’s case is the newest of a number of such disputes to focus on the delicate steadiness native officers should generally strike between defending free speech and responding to considerations about language that some residents discover offensive.
Dick, 54, mentioned she acquired the banners — which can be found from Amazon and different retailers — earlier this 12 months, however didn’t hold them on the dwelling in Roselle Park the place she lives with her mom, or on the fence exterior, till Memorial Day.
“Something must have gotten me worked up,” she mentioned.
Shortly after the vacation weekend, she mentioned, she grew to become conscious that some Roselle Park residents, noting that her dwelling was close to a faculty, have been upset about the language on the banners and about the potential for passing youngsters to see it.
Dick, whose mom, Patricia Dilascio, owns the home, mentioned that no youngsters lived on the block and that no youngsters routinely stroll by on their way to the college.
But the city’s mayor, Joseph Signorello III, mentioned he had acquired a number of complaints about the banners, which he handed on to the borough’s code enforcement officer. Residents of Roselle Park, a city of 14,000 folks a few 40-minute drive from Times Square, voted overwhelmingly for Biden in November.
“This is not about politics in any way,” mentioned Signorello, a Democrat. He added that officers would have taken the identical steps if the indicators expressed opposition to Trump utilizing related language. “It’s about decency.”
After visiting the dwelling, 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 mentioned 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 mentioned that whereas Signorello had handed on the residents’ complaints, he had not directed her to take any particular motion.
“I’m only doing my job,” Mack mentioned.
Dick was given a number of days to take away the banners, Mack mentioned. When she didn’t, she was given a summons to look in courtroom.
At that look, final Thursday, Judge Gary A. Bundy of Roselle Park Municipal Court gave Dilascio, as the property proprietor, per week to take away three of the 10 indicators displayed on the property — the ones together with the offending phrase — or face fines of $250 a day.
“There are alternative methods for the defendant to express her pleasure or displeasure with certain political figures in the United States,” Bundy mentioned in his ruling, noting the proximity of Dick’s dwelling to a college.
The use of vulgarity, he continued, “exposes elementary-age children to that word, every day, as they pass by the residence.”
“Freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right,” he added, noting later that “the case is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language. This ordinance does not restrict political speech,” Nj.com reported on Friday.
Jarrid Kantor, Roselle Park’s borough legal professional, applauded the decide’s determination, saying that native officers had been cautious to not make a problem out of the political nature of Dick’s banners and had targeted as an alternative on the potential hurt to youngsters.
“We think he got it just right,” Kantor mentioned.
But Thomas Healy, a legislation professor at Seton Hall University with experience in constitutional points, disagreed.
As I say in the article, it is a easy case from a constitutional standpoint – so easy I wouldn’t even use it on a legislation college 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 determination, Cohen v. California, that turned on the query of whether or not the identical phrase at difficulty in Dick’s case was obscene, Healy mentioned the phrase clearly didn’t qualify as obscene speech in the context of the political banners.
Conflicts like the one involving Dick have flared up this 12 months on Long Island, New York; in Indiana, Tennessee and Connecticut; and a few 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 an identical anti-Biden banner there, Mayor Tara Clark mentioned.
Citing an anti-nuisance ordinance, Clark mentioned, officers approached the house 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 were residents who were upset,” she mentioned. “but we also know that free speech is protected under the Constitution of the United States.”
Though some folks might need been sad that the banner couldn’t be compelled down, Clark mentioned that she and her fellow Hazlet officers felt it was vital to face up for the First Amendment.
“It ended there,” she mentioned. (The house owner took the banner down final week, she mentioned.)
As for Dick, she and her mom have about two weeks to attraction Bundy’s ruling to New Jersey Superior Court. He mentioned the each day fines would start accruing on Thursday if the offending banners remained up, regardless of whether or not Dick and her mom selected to attraction. If they do attraction, he instructed they take the banners down pending the final result.
On Monday, Dick didn’t sound like she deliberate to comply with that recommendation. She mentioned she was searching for a brand new lawyer and was dedicated to seeing the case by way of.
“I’m not backing down,” she mentioned.