As American citizens pressure politicians to create more defining lines for what is or is not a hate crimes, a 19-year-old reportedly faces some serious charges. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a rise in hate crimes against Asian communities and certain civil rights organizations hope that Congress will make moves to declare certain “Karen” antics and behaviors rooted in bigotry as crimes motivated by racism. While those topics continue to be debated by the public and politicians, 19-year-old Lauren Gibson has been arrested for a hate crime after stomping on a “Back The Blue” sign.
According to NPR, there are five states (Mississippi, New Hampshire, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Utah) that have included law enforcement officers in their hate crime laws. It is reported that after a Utah officer “pulled over a group of vehicles for speeding, Gibson allegedly stomped on the sign while “smirking in an intimidating manner.”
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“The officer wrote in court documents the incident should be treated as a hate crime because it was an ‘attempt to intimidate law enforcement,'” KUER reported. This may seem like a ridiculous charge to some, but Sheriff James D. Perkins is taking it seriously as he defends the officer involved.
“We are greatly disturbed by the hatred shown to law enforcement officers for no apparent reason,” he said before calling Gibson “extremely aggressive and violent.” Perkins added, “Ms. Gibson caused a public disturbance and purposely targeted the officer in a very unpeaceful manner.”
Gibson reportedly told The Daily Beast that she waved the sign in the air before she stomped on it and threw it in the trash. Following the incident, she was arrested and now faces upwards of a year behind bars. This calls into question whether or not free speech is being infringed upon and if officers will follow suit in the future, charging and arresting people who disagree with law enforcement.
“This kind of charging decision sends an extremely chilling message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishment for people … who disagree with police actions,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said. “We consistently warn that [hate crime] enhancements are oftentimes used to single out unpopular groups or messages rather than provide protections for marginalized communities.”
“This case has confirmed those warnings.”