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A college student was charged with a hate crime after she destroyed a "Back the Blue" sign in front of a Utah police officer.
Lauren Gibson, 19, was arrested and charged after an officer accused her of "smirking in an intimidating manner" at him.
The misdemeanor, which violates Utah's 2019 hate-crime law, carries a sentence of up to one year in prison.
A 19-year-old woman was charged with a hate crime after she destroyed a "Back the Blue" sign in front of a police officer.
On July 7, Lauren Gibson, a college student from California, was driving with her friends in Panguitch, Utah, when one of the cars was pulled over for speeding by a deputy officer with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office.
Gibson told The Daily Beast that she was upset by her friend getting pulled over and picked up a "Back the Blue" sign that she said her friends previously found on the side of the road, waved it at the officer writing the ticket, stomped on it, and threw it in the trash.
"I just wanted to, I don't know, make her feel better or something or stand up for her," Gibson told The Daily Beast.
Gibson was arrested by the sheriff's deputy, who accused her of defacing the pro-police sign "in a destructive manner" and "all while smirking in an intimidating manner," Garfield County Sheriff's Deputy Cree Carter wrote in an affidavit.
She was charged with disorderly conduct as well as criminal mischief with a hate-crime enhancement after state prosecutors claimed the latter crime was committed with "the intent to intimidate or terrorize another person," which is in violation with Utah's 2019 hate-crime laws. The misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to one year in prison.
"Due to the demeanor displayed by Gibson in attempts to intimate law enforcement while destroying a 'Pro Law Enforcement' sign the allegations are being treated as a 'Hate Crime' enhanced allegation," Carter wrote in his affidavit.
The American Civil Liberties Union in Utah condemned Gibson's arrest and subsequent hate crime charge, saying they were "extremely troubled and disappointed" by the decision of the Garfield County Attorney's office.
"This kind of charging decision sends an extremely chilling message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishment for people charged with crimes who disagree with police actions," the organization said in a statement. "This concern is even greater because we do not view the enhancement as supportable under the language of the statute."
In a statement released Wednesday, the Garfield County Sheriff's Office said a deputy performed the traffic stop after observing the three cars speeding but did not give them a ticket. The Sheriff's Office also said the officer did not issue a ticket after noticing "tobacco products in a vehicle and advised them that due to their age they could not possess those products in Utah."
According to the press release, a group then exited one of the vehicles after the traffic stop was completed and returned with a "Back the Blue" sign, which the deputy suspected was stolen from the gas station but later learned it was not, The Beast reported. The Sheriff's Office said Gibson then "showed extremely aggressive and violent behavior toward the officer in a very busy parking lot."
"The simple fact is, while this officer was doing his doing in a proactive and compassionate manner, he was singled out and attacked by this person because he was a law enforcement officer. We are greatly disturbed by the hatred shown to law enforcement officers for no apparent reason.
Gibson has not yet filed a plea in the case, though said she said she doesn't "feel like I did anything wrong," she told The Beast.
"If it was a dentist's sign or something and I just crushed a dentist sign or something in front of them, like, nothing would have happened," she said. "It's the same thing. It's just an occupation."
Read the original article on Insider