Roselle Park, a Union County borough in New Jersey, warned one homeowner to remove her anti-Biden flags after residents complained about the profanity-filled flags, some which say “F*** Biden.”
A judge has reportedly ordered the woman to remove the flags, adding that failure to comply would result in fines.
Resident complaints pointed out that the flags were near a local elementary school, and children regularly walk past the home. Mayor Joseph Signorello, a Democrat, stated that one of the flags features a photo of Donald Trump raising both middle fingers with the words “F*** Biden” below the image. Of the six flags, three have the f-word.
Some of the flags read: "Don't Blame Me I Voted For Trump," "Joe Biden Sucks," "F*** Biden Not My President," and "Socialism Sucks Biden Blows."
According to Signorello, the city asked the homeowner to remove the flags because they violate a borough ordinance that prohibits residents from displaying “obscene materials.”
“It’s been brought to our attention less because of the political aspect of it, but the vulgarity of it. 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,” Signorello said.
Gary Bundy, Roselle Park Municipal Court Judge, ordered the homeowner and the property owner, her mother, to remove the profane flags or face daily $250 fines. The judge maintained that profanity is not protected by the First Amendment.
He stated: "This is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language. This ordinance does not restrict political speech.”
Andrea Dick, the homeowner in question, has stated that she has no plans to remove the flags, and has denied the existence of an ordinance that bans the display of obscene materials.
According to Borough Code 3-8: “It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, business association, club, group of individuals, or any combination of the aforementioned to knowingly photograph, act in, pose for, print, sell, offer for sale, give away, exhibit, publish, or offer to publish, or otherwise distribute or pander, make, display, or exhibit any obscene material, communication or performance or other article or item which is obscene within the Borough.”
The ordinance defines obscenity as “any material, communication or performance” which the average person applying contemporary community standards existing within the municipality, would find ‘appeals to the prurient interest,’ or ‘Depicts or describes in a patently offensive way sexual conduct,’ or depicts or exhibits ‘offensive nakedness as hereinafter specifically defined,’ or ‘lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.’”
Dick said in June: “I’m not taking them down. 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.”
Dick and her mother attended a virtual hearing on July 15, where Judge Bundy told them, “Neither this town or its laws may abridge or eliminate Ms. Dilascio's (Dick’s mother) 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."
Michael Campagna, the attorney representing the two, said: "I am a firm believer in the First Amendment. 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."
He also compared his clients’ situation to Nazi Germany: "In Nazi Germany, when Hitler didn't like something, they burned the books and then they burned the people. I don't think we want that to happen in Roselle Park."