No charges will be filed in case of banner decrying Black Lives Matter movement, prosecutor says, citing First Amendment

photo by: Contributed Photo

This contributed photo shows a banner found in South Park in Lawrence on June 27, 2020.

No one will face charges in connection with a banner that was found in downtown Lawrence in late June along with a note decrying the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Douglas County district attorney’s office referred the case to the Lawrence city prosecutor’s office to consider charges, the Journal-World reported in August.

“The City Prosecutor’s Office has declined to file charges in this case because the City believes that First Amendment freedom of speech protections apply to the content of the sign,” Elizabeth Hafoka, supervising city prosecutor, said via email Wednesday.

The banner was about the size of a twin sheet, a person who saw it told the Journal-World on June 27. The image appeared to be spray-painted on fabric, possibly a striped bedsheet. It featured the word “OBEY” alongside a graphic image of, apparently, George Floyd, being lynched by a raised fist bearing the letters “BLM.” The note accompanying the poster described the Black Lives Matter movement as a “lynch mob” and made multiple allegations that the movement was violent and authoritarian.

The banner sparked a protest during which activists occupied a stretch of Massachusetts Street near the Douglas County Courthouse for days on end, demanding an investigation into the banner and note accompanying it, which some protesters described as hate speech.

Lawrence police told the Journal-World at the time that they were investigating the banner to determine whether any crimes were committed.

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