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First Amendment Rights

Easy to Talk About, Hard to Enforce

On Wednesday, May 3, a local cop came by to tell me they had received a complaint about my new sign (below), claiming it violated Arizona Criminal Code §13-1402A. I refused to change the sign because I knew, regardless of what code he cited, the US Constitution and my First Amendment rights trumped Arizona law. He left after I refused to identify myself since I was standing in my house.

Researching Arizona laws, I learned Arizona Criminal Code §13-1402A addresses “indecent exposure.” In other words, if I had been standing in my yard waving my junk, I would be guilty of indecent exposure but not for displaying a sign of Trump’s head shaped like a penis. As an attorney acquaintance remarked, “that’s a bunch of flapdoodle.”

Previously, on March 8, two cops had rolled by in a marked patrol car and demanded to know, “Who put that bullshit up?” As I replied, they accelerated around the corner shouting “hater” followed by a vague threat. Try as I might, I couldn’t let that go unchallenged. I tried twice to get the cops’ name, rank, badge # and incident report but the police force has circled the wagons and refuses to respond.

And, before that, in October 2022, a cop came by the house about a complaint they’d received regarding the signs in my yard. The cop stressed I would be arrested for displaying obscene material in a manner visible to minors, a class 6 felony. Not being versed on the law, I placed a 2″ square piece of tape over trump’s facehole. However, per Arizona Criminal Code § 13-3507, it turns out my sign is protected as having “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific” value, the exact wording in the Supreme Court case Miller v. California (1973). After getting advice from various sources, I dropped it because the tape might actually draw more attention to the image.

It’s easy to talk about civil rights and the US Constitution but trying to enforce it comes down to money, lots of money. Attorneys and advocacy organizations like the ACLU only want big fish to fry. A case like mine isn’t even worth a return call, especially when I tell them I don’t want to sue but simply want to put the cops on notice that they’re being watched. As a test case, I contributed $100 to FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) before asking for their help. One hundred dollars got me a call-back after several e-mails and, eventually, no thanks, we’re not even interested in having our advocacy group send a letter to the cops.

So, if you’re an attorney or know of an attorney who’s willing to write a letter to put the local PD on notice or an advocacy group who wants an easy notch in their “W” column, please contact me. In the meantime, Illegitimati non carborundum (fractured Latin for “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.”)

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