Woman Charged With 'Hate Crime' For Destroying 'Back the Blue' Sign

P. Gardner Goldsmith | July 12, 2021
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“Authorities” in Garfield County, Utah, have charged a 19-year-old woman with “criminal mischief" and "hate crime enhancement” for allegedly stomping on a “back the blue” sign.

You read that right: “Hate crime enhancement.”

Which is a warning to conservatives not to buy into the Orwellian concept of a “hate crime,” even when the term seems to defend the proverbial good cop from criticism or focused anger.

C.J. Ciaramella reports for Reason:

According to an affidavit obtained by the (Salt Lake) Tribune, a Garfield County Sheriff's deputy was conducting a traffic stop at a gas station in Panguitch, Utah, on Wednesday when he saw the woman ‘stomping on a 'Back the Blue' sign next to where the traffic stop was conducted, crumble it up in a destructive manner and throw it into a trash can all while smirking in an intimidating manner towards me.’

The point here is not whether this young lady's actions, smirk, or perceived “reason” for destroying the property reflect “hate.” The point is to avoid falling into the Orwellian trap of ascribing one’s own perception for her motive, and then claiming that said perceived "reason" for committing an act of property damage makes the crime worse than other motives for committing the same exact crime of property damage.

As Ciaramella notes, this is not the first instance of police using “hate” crime terminology to slam alleged criminals harder than others who engaged in the same actions.

Louisiana became the first state in the U.S. to make police a protected class under hate-crime laws when the governor signed the legislation into law in 2016. A New Orleans man was the first person to be charged under the law for allegedly shouting racial and sexist slurs at police.

And he observes:

In 2018, police officers in Crafton, Pennsylvania charged a black man with ‘ethnic intimidation’ for calling them Nazis while he was being arrested. The Appeal reported that Pennsylvania law enforcement had charged at least three other residents with hate crimes for making offensive statements to police.

There’s a dark vista ahead for those who think they can create for government the power to “interpret” people’s motivation for engaging in an activity, and then criminalize it. Likewise, it’s not wise to hand government the power to ascribe motivational distinctions and, as a result, different punishments, for similar crimes. That’s a Pandora’s Box that will not always be controlled by the left who currently want to use the term “hate” as a distinction to push for harsher punishment and who want to use the appellation to demonize people outside of courtrooms.

Related: Gutfeld: ‘Hate Crime Laws Suck’

And the rhetorical-legal practice is not a good idea for conservatives and pro-freedom folks to adopt. 

Ciaramella refers to fellow Reason writer to provide the key:

As Reason's Robby Soave wrote, such prosecutions are ‘good evidence that we ought to be skeptical of hate crime laws. Although intended to protect the underprivileged from bigotry and racism, they often permit the government to quell speech that is critical of authority.’

The Salt Lake Tribume reports:

’Due to [the woman] destroying property that did not belong to her in a manner to attempt to intimidate law enforcement, I placed her under arrest,’ the affidavit says.

According to the affidavit, the allegations are being treated as a ‘hate crime enhanced allegation’ due to ‘the demeanor displayed by [the woman] in attempts to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a 'Pro Law Enforcement' sign.’

How about charging her with property damage and being done with it?

This is a bad path. Let’s not step further down it.

Related: American Investigates Anti-Feminist Fliers as a Hate Crime For 'Targeting Women'