October 28, 2020

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Letter: Leave The Political Signs Alone

By Aaron K. Jordan, Stevens County Attorney

Recently, several Morris residents had Black Lives Matter signs burned in their yards.

Some of those residents are people of color. It’s hard to understand how a person could justify in their minds burning a BLM sign in another person’s yard given the history of our country.

Perhaps it was meant as a sick joke. Perhaps it’s ignorance. I hope that’s all it is. I have a hard time wrapping my head around why the BLM movement is so maddening to some people. Sometimes comedy strikes at the heart of an issue better than any philosophical debate. The comedian Michael Che puts it best in his stand-up routine:

“As a country we just can’t agree. We just fight about everything. We can’t even agree on black lives matter. That’s a controversial statement. Not matters more than you. Just matters. Matters! Juuuust matters. That’s where we’re starting the negotiations. We can’t agree on that [expletive]? What the [expletive] is less than matters? Black lives exist?

Can we say that? Is that controversial?”

And that’s all I’ll say about that.

However, on destruction of signs, I have a bit more to add. As we get closer to election day in November, political signs will be popping up in yards all over the county. Those Biden or Trump signs are really going to bug some people. Leave them alone. It’s a crime to take them or destroy them. Some of the crimes that could be charged include theft, criminal damage to property and arson. Other crimes could be charged if the perpetrator was intending to target someone based on their sexual orientation, race, or religion, or if the intent was to cause fear of bodily harm or terrorize another person. Penalties start at a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a $1000 fine, or both, and could, in certain circumstances, go all the way to a felony offense.

What we see reported in the news and on TV these days is disturbing. Some go out of their way to cause fear of the “others”. I, for one, don’t want to see that type of anger and intolerance here in Stevens County. Political debate should be vigorous. We often hold views that are opposite of one another. That’s fine. But, in expressing those views we need to stay within the confines of the law. Attempting to stifle another person’s views by stealing or destroying their political signs is an attack on democracy. Burning them in the middle of the night is cowardice.

This past school year the kids at Morris Areas Schools sang a version of the Bill of Rights to the tune of 12 days of Christmas. And, of course, every verse ends with a nod to the First Amendment. We’re reminded about a dozen times that we have a right to, “Say any stupid thing we want!” It’s an important right, and if you see someone’s right to say any stupid thing they want being trampled on, or burned, please report it to law enforcement.