Created: 05/20/2014 6:48 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4
An Albuquerque man has won a fight with City Hall over the peaceful protest sign he keeps in his front yard. It's just a ratty-looking little old yard sign, but the real roots of this dispute are embedded firmly in the First Amendment – the right to freedom of speech.
In one form or another, Roberto Vasquez had had the sign up for the past eight years in front of his two-story stucco in a nifty neighborhood on the city's West Side. The message is simple – stop the war, bring home the troops – but it does refer to the George W. Bush administration and it doesn't spare the Obama administration either.
Last month Vasquez got a letter from the city's Code Enforcement department, telling him that his sign was in violation and that he could face penalties of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500 a day. Vasquez refused to take it down.
"Taking down the sign would have been a really easy thing to do," Vasquez said Tuesday. "But it's not the sign. It's opening your mouth. You need to open your mouth and say – you know what? – what is right and what is wrong. I have nothing against the presidents. I don't care who it is. All I'm saying is, I don't believe in your thoughts of sending more troops."
Vasquez said he called the ACLU and they called the city and suddenly a new letter arrived from the Code Enforcement people.
"This is not a violation," the letter says. "Our inspector will not be filing court action against you." The letter apologizes to Vasquez for any confusion or frustration the city's actions may have caused.
City ordinances do require the taking down of all political signs with ten days after an election, but Vasquez said his sign was clearly not a campaign sign for any election. He said it will come down when all the troops come home.