Courts & Corrections

Police investigating ‘hate speech’ graffiti at Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library

BURLINGTON — City officials say they discovered racist and anti-semitic graffiti, involving a swastika and epithet, in the bathroom at the Fletcher Free Library.

The graffiti has since been painted over and library staff are working with the Burlington Police Department on the police investigation into the graffiti, according to a news release.

“As library director at the Fletcher Free, I want to reassure our community that such acts will not be tolerated here, as they are not tolerated anywhere in Burlington,” said Mary Danko, library director, in a prepared statement.

“Our support of free speech does not translate into tolerance for hate speech,” she added.

In his own statement included in the news release, Mayor Miro Weinberger said, “Hate speech of any kind in Burlington is unacceptable. It undermines our work to be a welcoming and inclusive community for all, and threatens the diversity that enriches our community.”

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Morgan True

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  • Phil Greenleaf

    Tom – although I bow to your perspective on anti-Semitic speech (and share your resentment of it) , as you might expect, I need to add to your 1st amendment commentary.

    First – it is not clear at all (from the brief press release) that the mayor is making any comment on the need to “regulate” speech. He was quoted as saying that hate speech is unacceptable (if inevitable) in a community which strives for greater inclusion and welcoming. Further, although police are investigating, I’m not aware that anyone has referred to any municipal statute under which the perpetrator could be charged with a hate crime anyway.

    Second – flag burning and various acts which can be described as hate “crimes” are not equivalencies because there is no terrorized victim of historic racial violence when the US flag is burned.

    Third – Virginia vs Black (2002) began clarifying the content neutrality issue by upholding state statutes which rely on proof of intent to terrorize (essentially demarcating cross-burning in select locations as domestic terrorist acts against historically victimized populations). Although this technically was written as permisable “conduct” restriction, the clear intent was to make progress toward restraining a vile and unacceptable form of content.

    In your view should the mayor be censured either publicly or by the town government for commenting on this issue?

    Finally – All speech is not protected by the amendment, but in this case I think we agree that there isn’t a punishable hate crime under the VA vs BLACK guidelines. Similarly, with further thought, I hope you might agree that neither has anyone else overstepped boundaries of free speech regulation.

    • I recommend that the Mayor make clear that Burlington does not regulate speech – or even graffiti – according to content. He, too, has free speech so I’m not recommending that he be censured – just that he be clear in support of free speech.

      • Phil Greenleaf

        OK – Burlington probably does regulate graffiti though. Like you said earlier it is probably defacing public property if they somehow caught the person. Since we think there isn’t any Burlington statute in question here – do you still need the mayor to clarify something? There is no regulation as far as we know, but at the same time we all agree that the act in question is unacceptable.