Tennessee woman wins free speech suit over sign dissing Biden, Trump

Don’t get it off her lawn.

A federal judge ruled this week that the “F–k em both 2024″ sign Julie Pereira installed on her front lawn to share her dismay at the choices for president this year is not obscene, and ordered the city of Lakeland, Tennessee, to refund the money she’s paid in fines and fees and to cover her $31,000 in attorney fees.

Pereira turned to the courts last month, after she began racking up fines when neighbors complained that the lawn sign — which at times since she planted it earlier this year has been flanked with American flags and had a spotlight turned on it — was obscene.

Julie Pereira, a woman with long brown hair wearing a blue jacket, looks at the camera.
Julie Pereira won a $32,000 judgment from the city of Lakeland, Tenn. after she sued them on First Amendment grounds for fining her because of her lawn sign. ABC24

Lakeland city officials initially fined Pereira $50 a day for five days because of the sign, which a local officer said violates city regulations that prohibit “statements of an obscene, indecent, or immoral
character, which would offend public morals or decency” and “statements, words or pictures of an obscene nature,” according to the suit she filed June 6 in federal court in Tennessee,

She racked up $688.45 in fines and other fees as she refused to remove the sign.

She initially paid the fines and covered the letter “U” with tape.

Pereira said the city left her alone after that, but she took the matter to court on the basis that the city’s fines violated her right to free speech.

“In the interest of protecting not only my rights, but all citizens in the state of Tennessee this case has been taken to the next level because of its constitutional impacts,” Pereira posted on Facebook after filing the suit. “Hopefully this will be the end of freedom of speech violations in this area.”

In her lawsuit, she said she made the sign because she was disillusioned with having to choose between Donald Trump and Joe Biden again in November’s election. 

The controversial sign made by Julie Pereira, with the first word blocked out, is shown on a lawn with a spotlight pointed at it.
Pereira said she made the controversial sign because she is disappointed about having to choose between Trump and Biden in November. ABC24

Some neighbors didn’t approve of the language.

“It has implied expressive language that I feel is inappropriate for younger people,” neighbor Nathan Scallon told the local ABC affiliate in February. “There are rights that should be protected, but that doesn’t give us license to act in an immoral or inappropriate way, especially regarding children in the area.”

Pereira, who appeared in court once before over signage on a Christmas decoration that also included swear words, vows not to take down the sign until after the November election.

“I’m not afraid to say what I stand for and believe in,” Pereira said. 

She also started selling the signs the morning after last month’s disastrous debate.

“Listen, I think I was on to something here,” she posted on Facebook, with a link to purchase them for $19.95 on Amazon. ” Grab your very own right here before they sell out!”

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