A New Jersey woman who opposes President Joe Biden is facing what appears to be legal censorship after a judge ruled she must remove anti-Biden flags from outside her home or face daily monetary fines.
What are the details?
The Roselle Park woman caught the ire of her neighbors — and "caught the attention of local code enforcement," according to NJ.com — after she began displaying anti-Biden, pro-Donald Trump flags.
The display includes six flags, which say:
- "Don't Blame Me I Voted For Trump"
- "Joe Biden Sucks"
- "F*** Biden"
- "F*** Biden Not My President"
- "Socialism Sucks Biden Blows"
- The sixth flag shows Trump holding up two middle figures and includes the caption, "F*** Biden"
Mayor Joseph Signorello (D) claimed the display violated town ordinances prohibiting "obscene materials," but claimed the political nature of the display was not problematic.
"It's been brought to our attention less because of the political aspect of it, but the vulgarity of it," Signorello told NJ.com. "The real problem is, from a neighbor perspective, is it's a block away from an elementary school. It's in a high visibility area for children. Most of the ire was drawn from a lot of local parents."
The owner of the display, Andrea Dick, was defiant when told by city officials to remove the display.
"I'm not taking them down," Dick said. "I refuse to take them down... Today I got a phone call from code enforcement... I said nothing against you, but I'm not taking them down. I said I have a right, freedom of speech, and I'm leaving them up there."
What did the judge rule?
Roselle Park Municipal Court Judge Gary Bundy ordered Dick — and her mother, the property owner, Patricia Dilascio — to remove the flags with profanity or face daily $250 fines.
Bundy claimed the profanity is not protected by the First Amendment.
"This is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language," Bundy said, NJ.com reported. "This ordinance does not restrict political speech. Neither this town or its laws may abridge or eliminate Ms. Dilascio's freedom of speech. However, freedom of speech is not simply an absolute right. It is clear from state law and statutes that we cannot simply put up the umbrella of the First Amendment and say everything and anything is protected speech."
An attorney for the borough had argued the First Amendment is not absolute and is subject to "reasonable limitations," which should include profanity in Dick's case.
What did Dick's attorney argue?
Michael Campagna, the attorney representing the homeowner, likened restricting Dick's ability to display the profanity to "censorship."
"I am a firm believer in the First Amendment," Campagna said. "I may not believe in what you're saying, but I absolutely believe that you have the right to say it. That's what our democracy is about. If you tell people that they cannot say something, that they cannot print something, that they cannot put a sign up, we're going into censorship."
Campagna also made comparisons to Nazi Germany, according to NJ.com.
"In Nazi Germany, when Hitler didn't like something, they burned the books and then they burned the people," Campagna said. "I don't think we want that to happen in Roselle Park."