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 residence: “Don’t Blame Me/I Voted for Trump” and several other others that assault Biden in crude phrases. A number of characteristic a phrase that some folks 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 mentioned violated an anti-obscenity ordinance, she refused. Now, she is resisting a decide’s order that she accomplish that and pledging to combat it in courtroom on free speech grounds.
“It’s my First Modification proper,” she mentioned in an interview on Monday, “and I’m going to stay with that.”
In a rustic the place the political fault strains 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 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 grasp them on the house in Roselle Park the place she lives together with her mom, or on the fence exterior, till Memorial Day.
“One thing will need to have gotten me labored up,” she mentioned.
Shortly after the vacation weekend, she mentioned, she grew to become conscious that some Roselle Park residents, noting that her residence was close to a faculty, had been upset in regards to the language on the banners and in regards to 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 technique to the college.
However the city’s mayor, Joseph Signorello III, mentioned he had acquired a number of complaints in regards to 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 Instances Sq., voted overwhelmingly for Biden in November.
“This isn’t about politics in any approach,” 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 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 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 solely doing my job,” Mack mentioned.
Dick was given a couple of days to take away the banners, Mack mentioned. When she didn’t, she was given a summons to seem in courtroom.
At that look, final Thursday, Decide Gary A. Bundy of Roselle Park Municipal Court docket gave Dilascio, because the property proprietor, per week to take away three of the ten 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 the USA,” Bundy mentioned in his ruling, noting the proximity of Dick’s residence to a college.
Using vulgarity, he continued, “exposes elementary-age youngsters to that phrase, on daily basis, as they go by the residence.”
“Freedom of speech just isn’t merely an absolute proper,” he added, noting later that “the case just 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 decide’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 expect he received it good,” Kantor mentioned.
However Thomas Healy, a legislation 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 legislation 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 difficulty in Dick’s case was obscene, Healy mentioned 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 12 months on Lengthy 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 house owner put up the same 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 pressure him to take action.
“We knew that there have been residents who had been upset,” she mentioned. “however we additionally know that free speech is protected below the Structure of the USA.”
Although some folks might need been sad that the banner couldn’t be pressured down, Clark mentioned that she and her fellow Hazlet officers felt it was essential to face up for the First Modification.
“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 enchantment Bundy’s ruling to New Jersey Superior Court docket. He mentioned 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 urged they take the banners down pending the result.
On Monday, Dick didn’t sound like she deliberate to observe that recommendation. She mentioned she was searching for a brand new lawyer and was dedicated to seeing the case via.
“I’m not backing down,” she mentioned.