Stupid unconstitutional stuff is happening in Texas. “Again?” I hear you ask, irritated but not surprised. “Yes,” I repeat. “In Texas, and involving local politicians and law enforcement.” “Again?” I hear you say (again) and the circle of commentary life continues uninterrupted.
A resident of Hamilton, Texas, posted a political sign in her front yard composed of a white
label board remix of political cartoonist Ann Telnaes’ remix of the GOP logo.
Here’s the original:
— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) December 5, 2017
And here’s the sign that was, until recently, in homeowner Marion Stanford’s yard:
As one does in this age of social media telegraphy, outraged parties brought this to the attention of a local politician with a sizable following — Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller — who dumped his own petrol on the partisan bonfire by posting it to Facebook and calling it an example of “Democrat sleaze.” He also claimed the picture was supposed to be “Judge Kavanaugh’s young daughter” — a claim made without supporting evidence but with the amplification of 738,000 Facebook followers.
Shortly thereafter, Marion Stanford began receiving threats. Unfortunately, this is the predictable part of the backlash. Stanford also received a visit from local law enforcement, which was a bit less predictable. But they weren’t there about the threats. They were there about the sign, as the Dallas Morning News reports.
Tuesday evening, she said, police came to her house and said they had received complaints.
“Police told me to remove the sign or they would take it and would arrest me,” Stanford said. “So I let them take the sign.”
This claim has been denied by the city, which issued this statement via the city manager.
The city manager of Hamilton, which is about 100 miles southwest of Fort Worth, denied that police mentioned arrest or forcibly took the sign.
“It’s political season, and a citizen here placed a yard sign that featured a political animal taking an inappropriate position with a young child,” Pete Kampfer said. “A police member visited the owner’s home, and the owner asked the officer to take the sign.”
This denial is more than a little weird. First off, even if officers did not mention arrest, they said something that caused her to hand over the sign to them. The police had no business being there in the first place, so their presence is completely inexplicable… or is at least something the city manager isn’t willing to explain.
Second, the whole sentence starting with “it’s political season” makes zero sense. “Political season” or no, the sign was protected expression the government had no business interfering with. The addition of “taking an inappropriate position with a young child” suggests the city — and possibly the police — are no smarter than the idiot commenters on Sid Miller’s page who claim the picture is pretty much child porn. It isn’t and only someone hoping to see someone punished by the government for protected speech would make this claim. That group apparently includes the city manager.
This is lawsuit bait. Even if the police did not threaten arrest, officers did visit a citizen to discuss protected expression — protected expression that ended up being removed by police officers and taken to the station. Whatever the chain of events, it makes everyone involved at the government level look bad. There was no reason to visit, much less take the sign. Even if the homeowner offered to give it up, officers shouldn’t have been there to ask the question, much less take her up on her offer.