Sometimes with free speech comes a price.
The Fort Worth City Council received an informal report on recent anti-immigrant
activities in the Fort Worth community during its work session meeting on Oct. 30.
These activities included the placement of defamatory banners and flyers on public property.
On Oct. 2, unknown person(s) placed a cloth banner with the words, “Deport Them All,” on the pedestrian bridge near Morningside Drive at Interstate 35. Concerned onlookers noticed the banner and removed it from the bridge.
On Oct. 4, community members discovered four flyers from the PATRIOTFRONT.us in
the downtown section of the city attached via adhesive in the following locations:
*Main at Street and 1st Street on a city fire hydrant.
*220 E 3rd Street at the AMC Palace Theatre on a movie poster.
*500 W 3rd Street on a lamp post across from the Central Library.
*501 Houston Street on a newsstand near Joseph A. Bank clothing business.
Two of the four flyers highlighted the phrase, “Reclaim America,” while the last two were entitled, “Better Dead than Red,” and “Not Stolen, Conquered.” The persons who located the flyers shared them on social media as well as with news outlets, but no one reported the literature to the Fort Worth Police Department.
The city attorney’s office determined that neither the speech on the banner nor the flyers constituted hate crimes, falling into the category of free speech allowed under the First Amendment. However, the placement of the flyers on city property is a Class C misdemeanor.
“I don’t want to deter and influence freedom of speech, but when you distribute hate material, that does no one any good,” District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton said. “Certainly, we have to do something on immigration, but to stir the pot on local entities, that does nothing but cause hate. We need to see if we can do something through civil discourse.
“If people would just generate good taste…”
The placement of the flyers on the lamp posts and the fire hydrants, which are city property, violated the City Code. If the flyers were placed on the movie poster and the newsstand without the permission of the owner, this would also violate the city dode. The overpass where the banner was placed is owned by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) so permission from TxDot to hang the banner would be required.
The FWPD will continue to work closely with City Center Security and other local stakeholders to review camera footage to determine if any viable leads or suspects exist. The Homeland Security Unit receives all related information on these incidents and actively monitors social media forums for potential involved groups. They communicate any actionable information gleaned to the appropriate investigative division.
The FWPD advises anyone who encounters these type incidents in the future to contact the police and to refrain from removing any posted flyer, banner, or sticker placed on public or city property.