Some Democrats have attempted to redefine what, exactly, constitutes protected free speech and what should be disallowed and criminalized as alleged hate speech, and in some instances, expressions of support for former President Donald Trump have been absurdly placed into that latter category.
One example is a Minnesota business owner who was fined and ordered to take down a massive Trump flag on his property, but a Minnesota Court of Appeals just ruled that the displayed flag constituted protected free speech, The Washington Times reported.
Is a political flag protected as free speech or governed by local ordinances?
Prior to the 2020 election, a construction business owner in Buffalo, Minnesota, named Jay Johnson raised a huge flag atop an extended construction crane on his property, and that banner, which measured 30-feet by 50-feet, bore the message: “TRUMP 2020 Keep America Great.”
Johnson was ordered to take the flag down after the election and, while he initially complied with that demand, he eventually reconsidered and raised it again in April 2021, which resulted in an adverse ruling and fine of $600 imposed by the Buffalo City Council.
The Trump-supporting business owner appealed that punishment to the courts and has now won a victory as the appeals court reversed the council’s decision.
Court finds ordinance cited by city doesn’t apply
At issue in the case, according to Minnesota’s Star Tribune, was whether city ordinances governing commercial and non-commercial signage were constitutional or even applicable in this particular circumstance.
The city had argued both that the flag exceeded allowable size restrictions and also had been flown without a permit of approval. Johnson had countered that his flag was protected free speech because the ordinance cited by the city didn’t apply to non-commercial signage.
In a 13-page ruling handed down Monday, the judge overseeing the case sided with Johnson and laid out two reasons for why the city’s actions against the business owner were to be reversed.
First, it was determined that “a provision of the ordinance prohibiting advertising or business signs attached to equipment does not apply” to Johnson’s non-commercial political speech, and second, that “the other provisions of the ordinance applied to” Johnson’s flag “create content-based restrictions on speech that do not survive strict scrutiny.”
The Trump flag will fly again
The Times noted that Johnson’s attorney, Aaron Dean, cheered the ruling and said, “We believe one of the bedrock foundations in this country is you can’t publicly punish someone for their political speech.”
It remains unclear at this point if the city will appeal this ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and requests for comment from the city attorney did not elicit a response.
Meanwhile, Johnson announced his intention to resume flying the massive Trump flag over his business and even vowed to hold a celebratory event to mark its return.