A billboard off the side of a road in Southern Maryland has been raising some eyebrows as of late, but the local sheriff’s department is telling folks not to worry because the sign will soon be removed.
In bold red letters against a solid white background, the controversial sign reads:
Hey liberals, better get your guns if you try to impeach President Trump. From all of your deplorables in Calvert County.
Captain Dave Payne with the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office said the sign has been on display for around a couple weeks. According to Payne, the sign is owned by a local man in Calvert County and he’s been asked to remove it. Without naming the man, Payne further clarified that Calvert County Sheriff Mike Evans has been communicating with the sign’s owner in an effort to have the sign taken down.
In comments to the Baltimore Sun, Payne said, “There’s two groups that are offended. We’ve received messages that say it’s offensive that it’s up. It’s offensive that he’s being pressured to take it down. We can’t win. We’re in the middle.”
This, of course, could pose an actual free speech concern. Government action is the only instance in which the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is implicated and a local sheriff’s attempt to silence or remove controversial speech could plausibly qualify as government interference.
Law&Crime reached out to the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office for clarification on exactly how local law enforcement and the sign’s owner agreed the sign should be removed. Over the phone, Payne explained that “The sheriff here is familiar with some of the family members of the man who owns that sign.”
“As a favor, the guy volunteered to take down the sign. The only problem is this guy is out of town,” he said.
When pressed as to the possible First Amendment issues involved, Payne noted:
We conferred with the state’s attorney, they said we don’t see [the sign itself] as illegal. As far as him being asked to take it down, the sheriff didn’t even ask him. There’s no pressure. If the guy wants to keep the sign up, he can keep the sign up and we’ll deal with it.
Payne also said, that no matter when the current sign comes down, another controversial sign is likely to take its place. The sign owner has been putting up incendiary statements for at least the past year. Payne said, “The last one was about abortion. This one just got the most attention.”
[image via Facebook]
Follow Colin Kalmbacher on Twitter: @colinkalmbacher
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