A young woman in the United States was charged with a hate crime for smiling “intimidatingly” while stepping on a sign from the pro-police movement Back The Blue.
It was just a routine Utah transit stop, but it ended unexpectedly. After your friend was stopped, Lauren Gibson threw a poster in the trash of the Back The Blue movement, a sign that encourages support for police forces. An agent saw, and detained the 19-year-old, who can now stay one year in prison.
According to court documents cited by the Washington Post, agent Cree Carter accused Lauren Gibson of crumpling the sign “destructively” while “smiling at a intimidating way” before disposing of it.
In addition to disorderly conduct, the 19-year-old student also faces a charge of criminal injuries aggravated with hate crime, as Gibson is said to have had “intent to intimidate or terrorize another person,” which violates Utah’s hate crimes law.
“Due to the behavior demonstrated by Gibson in trying to intimidate the forces police officers while destroying a pro-police sign, the allegations are being treated as a hate crime,” wrote Cree Carter in the sworn statement.
In an interview with the Daily Beast, the young woman says not be anti-police and she claims that she only wanted to defend her friend who received a speeding ticket and was treated in a way aggressive by the agent.
“I just wanted, I don’t know, to make her feel better or defend her,” Lauren Gibson revealed.
Utah’s 2019 law increased penalties for hate crimes and expanded protected groups beyond race or religion to include political beliefs and “status as a police officer”. Louisiana and Kentucky have also passed laws that make the police a group that can suffer hate crimes.
Utah’s American Civil Liberties Union has already condemned the case. “This type of decision sends an extremely worrying message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishments on people accused of crimes who disagree with the actions of the police,” the group wrote in a statement.
“This concern is even greater because we do not see the aggravation of the sentence as justified within the language of the law. We constantly warn that aggravations are often used to discriminate against unpopular groups or messages and not to increase protections for marginalized groups. This case confirmed these warnings”, adds the organization.
This is not the first time prosecutors in Utah have accused someone of committing a hate crime against the police. In August of last year, Joseph Dawson, a 32-year-old man, was sentenced to two days in prison and one year on probation for removing a sign from Back The Blue and painting the word “bisexual” there.
Gibson reveals to the Daily Beast that the agent mentioned this case. “He said to me ‘do you know what happened to the last person who was arrested for this?‘… he was threaten me that way”, he says.
“If it had been a dentist’s sign or something and I had crumpled it up in front of him, nothing would have happened. It’s the same thing. it’s just a job“, concludes Lauren, who finds it strange that the police are considered a group protected under the laws against hate crimes. “I Think I didn’t do anything wrong“he concludes.
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