First Amendment protects political sign, officials say | News

ACLU: “although rude” swear words are allowed

ELLINGTON – Although they have received several complaints about what some consider an offensive political sign on Route 140, police and local officials say they have no legal basis to act because the sign is protected by the first amendment.

A landlord who lives across from Rolling Meadows Country Club has hung a banner on his barn that reads: “(Expletive) Biden and (Expletive) You for voting for him!

The sign is clearly visible to those driving west on Route 140, but is completely blocked off for eastbound travelers.

It can also be seen from parts of the Rolling Meadows Country Club golf course.

State Police Sgt. Brian Santa said there were about four complaints that initially came to the office of the first woman selector, and the sign was reviewed by the planning and zoning office to determine if it violated bylaws. municipal zoning.

Ultimately, it was determined that no regulations were violated, he said.

“It’s private property,” Santa Claus said. “It’s freedom of speech, no matter what she says.”

Unlike signs or graffiti placed on public spaces, such as bridge overpasses, law enforcement does not have the authority to address a sign on private property.

In the case of messages placed on state-owned overpasses, the state Department of Transportation would repaint graffiti or remove unauthorized signs.

‘We can’t go onto his property, obviously, and remove it,’ Santa Claus said, adding that he was not aware of any complainants speaking directly to the owner who placed the sign on his barn. .

Julia Connor, spokeswoman for First Selectwoman Lori Spielman, said her office received “a few” calls and emails regarding the panel. She said zoning regulations can only relate to the location, size or height of signs, but regulations generally only apply to commercial advertisements.

“As the complaints relate to the content of the sign, zoning regulations do not come into play,” Connor said.

Similarly, city planner Lisa Houlihan said that while some may consider the sign “inappropriate,” particularly because school buses routinely use Route 140 to bring students to and from high school, it is covered by the First Amendment.

“It’s protected speech, and it’s nothing that zoning bylaws have from an enforcement perspective,” she said.

Houlihan said there are no city ordinances regulating offensive language on private property.

“We can’t regulate that,” she said. “It’s protected speech.”

Although the property is close to the northwest edge of Robert Tedford Memorial Park, formerly Brookside Park, guests are unlikely to notice the sign during sporting events such as Little League games, as most sports take place at the opposite end of the park.

A person living at the residence declined to discuss the sign when approached by the Journal Inquirer.

A complainant who told the Journal Inquirer about the sign did not return requests for comment.

Santa Claus said he has contacted State Police attorney Kate Ayers about the matter and she is researching and will provide advice to the Resident State Troopers Office and the town of Ellington.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut agrees with police and city officials because the government does not suppress someone’s political point of view.

“As rude as it is, voicing criticism of the President of the United States through a sign on private property is permitted under the First Amendment,” said the ACLU’s chief legal officer. Connecticut, Dan Barrett.

He said a bigger concern of the ACLU of Connecticut is what they see as police brutality, particularly as it relates to black people killed by law enforcement and the crackdown on subsequent protests.

“The view expressed by the sign is one that could be shared by someone at either end of the political spectrum, and when it comes to threats to free speech, we are most concerned at this time. by the way police continue to undermine the rights of people who defend black lives across the country,” Barrett said.

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