Even though authorities in Princess Anne, Md., have dropped charges against two women charged with a hate crime for burning a President Trump campaign sign, they still get a side eye for penalizing them over what should have been protected under the First Amendment.
Police said D’Asia R. Perry and Joy Shuford, both 19, had been charged with several offenses after the sign was set on fire on April 14, including hate crime charges and arson. After reviewing a surveillance video near the sign and locating a vehicle seen in the footage that they said was driven by Perry, the two were given charges. But after a few days, officials relented and dropped most of the accusations, according to The Baltimore Sun.
“The decision to dismiss the charges was based upon a joint decision between the Princess Anne Police Department and the Somerset County State’s Attorney’s Office upon reviewing the case,” said Timothy R. Bozman, chief of the Princess Anne Police Department in a statement.
The ACLU of Maryland called the applying of the hate crime charge against Perry and Shuford “absurd” and senior attorney David Rocah told the Baltimore Sun that it was “a profound misunderstanding of what the Maryland hate-crime statute says.”
Maryland’s hate crime law focuses on offenses against people based on their racial background, color, religious beliefs, gender, disability, sexual orientation, national origin or homelessness. It is intended to “provide and enhance penalty” for crimes that “put entire communities of persons in fear,” Rocah said. “Burning someone’s political sign isn’t a hate crime.”
Several Trump signs have been vandalized in surrounding areas, which largely supported Trump in the November election. The Somerset County Republican Central Committee has counted an increased amount since the most recent election cycle. “We’d not seen as much vandalism to Trump signs during the Trump election,” Matthew Adams, committee chairman told DelMarVaNow.com People cut them, burned them up, tore them down and took them.”
“Children will be children, but it is sad that we can’t have differing opinions about someone and not be attacked,” he said.
Perry and Shuford still face charges including malicious burning, trespassing and malicious destruction of property. They were scheduled for court hearings on May 22.