In America speaking is such a protected act that you can burn the American flag because it is considered “symbolic speech.” There is something special about a country that values individual expression rather than the protection of a state symbol.
However, authoritarians of all political stripes are constantly setting rules that infringe upon these sacred freedoms. More recently, a Panguitch, Utah police officer arrested a 19-year-old woman for stepping on a “Back the Blue” sign, crumbling it and throwing it in a trash can. The signs had been recently printed by the local sheriff’s department.
The officer also complained that she did so “while smiling in an intimidating way at me”. The incident occurred while the officer was carrying out a traffic check at a gas station.
Here is the “Back the Blue” symbol for those who are not familiar.
Now the interaction should have ended there. The officer may have been bothered by his anti-cop rhetoric, but that’s no justification for arresting someone. The officer is probably in the wrong business if he is offended by someone stomping on a pro-police sign while “smiling”.
But the cop went further by questioning the woman about where she got the sign. At first, she said it belonged to her mother, but the police believed that she “acquired it in our community”. The woman later admitted to finding the sign on the ground.
The woman then read her Miranda rights.
” Because of [the woman] destroying property that did not belong to her in such a way as to try to intimidate the police, I placed her under arrest, ”the affidavit states. The allegations against the woman are treated as a “reinforced hate crime allegation” due to “posted by [the woman] in an attempt to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a “Pro Law Enforcement” sign.
I protect your right to smirk at the police in an intimidating way https://t.co/NJqP8Qef2f
– The first amendment (@The first amendment)1625949534.0
Utah law states that anyone who destroys property with the intent “to intimidate or terrorize another person or with reason to believe that his or her action would intimidate or terrorize that person” is liable to an offense of. class A.
The law also defines “intimidating or terrorizing” as “an act which causes a person to fear for their physical safety or damages the property of that person or another”.
The woman faces up to one year in prison or a fine of up to $ 2,500.
If the policeman had really done his job, he would have recognized that the woman was simply exercising her freedom of expression, a right that the police are required to protect.
Instead, the officer appears to have gone down the low road and arrested the woman for hurting their feelings. It’s hard to believe that an armed officer would feel terrified of someone just because they were smiling at them.
If setting fire to an American flag representing the whole country is protected as “symbolic speech,” then trampling on the sign of an American flag with a blue line that represents only a small fraction of Americans should surely be also protected.
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