What First Amendment Rights?

Jim Farrell of Maplewood, Minnesota, believed that he was simply exercising his First Amendment rights when he placed two political signs on his own private property. Each sign was in favor of one of the amendments that will appear in November on the Minnesota ballot.

The first sign, showing support for a voter ID measure, has been left alone. The second sign showed support for a statewide definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Within two weeks the second sign was stolen from the yard.

Not deterred, Farrell replaced the stolen sign with a much larger one. Following the placement of the new sign, there were two attacks on his property.

In the first attack it was shot at in the middle of a Sunday afternoon.  I was watching a football game and heard 3 loud bangs.  I jumped up and looked out the window in time to see 3 people jump into a car and take off.  I called the police and reported the shooting.  Because it was a shooting they responded quickly and were there within 5 minutes. The officer quickly lost interest after examining the sign and determining it was “just” a pellet gun. He even suggested that the “3 bangs” I heard were firecrackers, although no firecracker residue was present.

The second attack involved spray paint and some vulgar language, but the attackers did not limit their “expression” to the sign. They threw in criminal property damage as an added bonus.

Local police, upon responding to calls concerning the vandalism, confirmed that many of the signs in favor of the marriage amendment had been vandalized. Though sympathetic, they were doubtful that any arrests would be made. Farrell intends to leave the vandalism as is until the election.

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