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A New Jersey woman, who has been ordered by a judge to remove a number of vulgar signs criticizing President Joe Biden, has refused to back down despite the promise of monetary fines by city officials.
On July 15, homeowner Patricia Dilascio was ordered by Roselle Park Municipal Court Judge Gary Bundy to remove three of 10 flags displayed on her property within a week or face $250-per-day fines, even though the signs belong to her daughter, Andrea Dick. The display features the phrases "F*** Biden," "Joe Biden Sucks," "Socialism Sucks, Biden Blows," and "Don't Blame Me I Voted For Trump," among others.
The duo had 20 days to appeal the ruling, but the fines would begin on Thursday regardless of their move. Dick has refused to comply with the directive in the face of the stiff penalty.
“It’s my First Amendment right,” Dick told the New York Times on Monday, “and I’m going to stick with that.”
Complaints about her display began to pour in as early as last month as critics suggested the anti-Biden flags should be removed due to the proximity of the home to a local school. Bundy insisted the case is not about "politics."
“This is not a case about politics. It is a case, pure and simple, about language,” he said at the time of the order last week. “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.”
In June, a code enforcement officer issued a violation notice to the home pertaining to a law forbidding “any obscene material, communication or performance or other article or item which is obscene within the Borough." Prior to last week's hearing, Dick stuck to her guns and refused to remove the signs, citing similar First Amendment concerns.
Roselle Park Mayor Joseph Signorello III, a Democrat, has echoed statements from residents that the "vulgarity" is the issue at hand.
“It’s been brought to our attention less because of the political aspect of it, but the vulgarity of it,” Signorello said last month. “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.”
However, Michael Campagna, an attorney representing Dilascio, argued the move by the judge was akin to "censorship."
“I am a firm believer in the First Amendment,” he 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.”
“In Nazi Germany, when Hitler didn’t like something, they burned the books, and then they burned the people,” he added. “I don’t think we want that to happen in Roselle Park.”
Some legal experts appear to agree with Campagna's reasoning. Thomas Healy, a law professor at Seton Hall University, told the New York Times he would be "stunned" if Bundy's ruling was upheld.
“It’s hard to imagine a simpler case from a constitutional standpoint,” he said.
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Original Author: Jake Dima