October 8, 2020

State Censors Silence a Trump Supporter

The California Department of Transportation yanks down a pro-Trump sign.

California, the once-proud but now pathologically progressive state that gave birth to the Free Speech Movement in the mid-1960s, has now officially come full circle.

Yesterday, we posted a meme about a large “TRUMP” sign that had been erected on private property along the Golden State’s heavily trafficked 405 Freeway near Beverly Hills. The sign, which uses five individual white letters and mimics the iconic “HOLLYWOOD” sign just a few miles away, had been up for all of a day.

As KTLA5 reports, “It was first reported at 6:41 a.m. [Tuesday], according to the California Highway Patrol’s incident log, which referred to it as a ‘traffic hazard.’ The sign had been placed in an area with dry brush, and the reporting party was apparently concerned it could spark a blaze, the log stated. The area has seen destructive brush fires in the past few years, including the Getty Fire last October and the Skirball Fire in December 2017. A smaller blaze also burned on the parched hillsides of the Sepulveda Pass earlier this year. The sign — which was on private property — has since been knocked down by crews because it created a traffic hazard, as motorists slowed down to take photos, according to Eric Menjivar of Caltrans.”

Not that we condone such reckless and dangerous behavior, but one intrepid motorist was able to drive and capture a brief video of the sign all at the same time.

Lauren Wonders, chief public information officer for the department, said the matter was a “life and safety issue because there were concerns about distracted driving.”

Caltrans, it seems, can’t get its story straight. Was the sign a fire hazard or a driving hazard? Or was it simply an expression of unpopular political speech?

The closing sentence of the KTLA5 article gives up the game: “A SurveyUSA poll from Sept. 30 had 32% of Californians supporting the president for re-election.”

Could any utterance be any less relevant to the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech than the popularity of a particular political candidate? And could any government action be a more blatant violation of free speech than what the self-styled censors at Caltrans did to that TRUMP sign?

Senator Ted Cruz, himself a constitutional law expert, doesn’t seem to think so. “Stunning,” he tweeted. “CA govt censors free speech on private property. A blatant abuse of power for political ends. Does anyone think they would have made them take down a Biden sign?”

The senator’s question is rhetorical, of course, because we all know the answer. One of our nation’s political parties still honors the First Amendment. The other one doesn’t.

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