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Profane anti-Biden flag causing controversy in Connecticut, around the nation

Hartford Courant logo Hartford Courant 2/19/2021 Jesse Leavenworth, Hartford Courant
a house covered in snow: An anti-Biden flag flies below an American flag outside of a Terryville home Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. © Kassi Jackson/Kassi Jackson/Hartford Courant/TNS An anti-Biden flag flies below an American flag outside of a Terryville home Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

HARTFORD, Conn. – Flags flying outside two homes in Plymouth, Connecticut, proclaim in stark — and some have complained, vulgar and inappropriate language — the residents’ rejection of the November election results and President Joe Biden.

About a half mile apart in the town’s Terryville section, both banners hang below American flags and state in bold, white letters on blue background, “F---- BIDEN,” and below that, in smaller type, “And ... you for voting for him!”

Plymouth police Capt. Edward Benecchi said residents have complained, saying neighborhood kids and students passing on school buses should not have to see such profanity.

But Benecchi said police consulted with the state’s attorney’s office in New Britain and found “we are unable to intercede as it would violate (the residents’) First Amendment right to free speech.”

Michael Stoto, who raised one of the anti-Biden flags, said no one has complained to him directly, but he has heard that at least one neighbor was upset. He bought the flag, Stoto said, because, “I hate Biden. I think he’s an ignorant fool.” As for children in the neighborhood, he said, “It’s not anything they haven’t seen or heard before.”

“It’s the best $9 I ever spent on Amazon,” Stoto said, “because it’s (ticking) people off and opening their eyes.”

Widely available, the anti-Biden flags have raised neighbors’ ire around the nation, news reports show. In New Hyde Park on Long Island, an elementary school principal urged parents to complain about the profane banner posted on a front yard fence.

In Bay City, Michigan, Sheriff Troy Cunningham told a reporter that he also had consulted with a prosecutor and learned the flag was a Constitutionally protected statement.

And in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, a homeowner who would only give her first name as Kimberly, told a reporter she had been getting harassing emails “that I am teaching our children words and that I am traumatizing children with freedom of speech, basically.” She said she took the flag down because she feared for her children’s safety.

One of the Terryville residents flying the banner, who would not give his name, said he raised it after former President Donald Trump lost on Nov. 3 because, he said, there was “obvious fraud” in the election. The man said one passerby complained, but others have given him the thumbs up. He said another reason for hoisting the anti-Biden flag: “I think it’s funny.”

“However crass,” Dan Barrett, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said, “a property owner’s ability to criticize the president is protected by the First Amendment.”

In the past two presidential elections, while Connecticut as a whole was mostly blue and Democratic, Plymouth voters chose Trump by wide margins over Biden (60.4%) and Hillary Clinton in 2016 (64.8%).

Local police, Benecchi said, will protect the flag flyers’ rights as they would the rights of any citizen. During protests against police brutality on the town green last year, some protesters held signs bearing the same swear word as the anti-Biden flags, but with police as the target, he said.

“We stood with them to uphold their First Amendment rights and protect them from counter protesters,” Benecchi said.

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