A local business owner in Hanson, Mass. is testing the limits of free speech by putting up two large and inflammatory anti-Obama signs.
Right outside of Sullivans, Inc., a motorcycle accessories distributor in Hanson, a large sign displays President Obama and says: "Somewhere in Kenya, a village is missing it's idiot. Obama One Big Ass Mistake America, Vote Mitt Romney for 2012!" On both sides of Obama's shirt collar are images of the hammer and sickle, a well known symbol of communism.
Several feet away sits another sign that shows a pouting little girl seemingly giving the middle finger to President Obama. The sign reads: "Thanks, Obama" in bold red letters before continuing in child-like handwriting. "You’ve spent my lunch money, my allowance, my inheritance, 35 years of future paychecks and my retirement. You jerk."
Some local residents are calling for the signs to be taken down and argue they are over the top and offensive, the Patriot Ledger reports. Meanwhile, others say free speech extends to everyone, including people with obnoxious opinions. Hanson is largely Democratic, has a population of about 10,000 and is located about 18 southeast of Boston.
One father told the Patriot Ledger that he has to prevent his children from seeing the sign with the little girl giving the president the one finger salute.
“If (my 6-year-old daughter) saw that, she’d say ‘Why is that little girl doing that? What does that mean?’” Folsom said. “How do I explain that?”
"That type of statement is real real redneck," another resident said. "It’s regressive and not progressive."
Police have received more than 40 calls in recent from people complaining about the signs, mostly to complain about their content, officials said. Police are also concerned that the signs are placed close to a dangerous intersection and people are stopping their cars to see the signs and snap photos, according to the Patriot Ledger.
However, other residents have expressed their support for the signs, not because they necessarily agree with the message, but because it's a matter of free speech.
"People are sensitive nowadays anyway," said one local retired Navy vet. "Those days are past, so I’m not too worried about it."
Local officials claim that the owner of Sullivans, Inc., Robert Sullivan, did not get the required permits to put the signs and have actively tried to have them taken down. "It is a sign that … is in violation of general bylaws. It also doesn’t meet any of the zoning bylaw criteria for the signs to exist as they are," said Robert Curran, Hanson building commissioner and zoning enforcement officer.
Sullivan’s attorney, Roger S. Davis of Quincy, said free speech and First Amendment protect his clients right to put up the signs.
"First amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It’s called freedom of speech," he told the Patriot Ledger.
When asked about officials' claims that the signs violating town bylaws, Davis said the matter "has already been resolved" with Town Administrator Rene Read.
"I’m not at liberty to discuss it. That’s my understanding," Davis said.
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