A Minnesota business owner refuses to remove a “Trump 2020” flag even though he may face a fine or even “go to jail” for violating a city ordinance.
Jay Johnson of Buffalo, near Minneapolis, is flying the custom-made flag atop a crane at his construction company.
“It looks small because it’s 150 feet in the air, but it’s a pretty big flag,” Johnson said.
According to WCCO-TV, Johnson said that he took down the 50-foot-by-30-foot flag after the election but chose to put it back up last month. Not long after, the windows of some of his work vehicles were shot by BB guns, and the police are looking into it.
Around the time his car windows were shot out, police said the same thing happened to a Trump merchandise shop in the same town, but no one has been detained.
“I’m willing to forgive the people that did it,” Johnson said. “They just got to come forward and admit it. I put a reward out.”
Johnson, on the other hand, is now in breach of the statute. According to Buffalo city ordinance, a sign that size requires a license, which he has not applied for and has not been reported as an option. According to a city official, the city is deciding how to proceed with compliance.
“I am prepared to get the fines, ultimately get cuffed, go to jail, whatever,” Johnson said.
“I’ll just put it up someplace else, and maybe even a bigger flag,” he said.
Johnson also said that the flag was $1,000 and the crane was about $50,000.
"I am prepared to get the fines, ultimately get cuffed, go to jail, whatever." A Minnesota man refuses to take down a “Trump 2020” flag that’s in violation of a city ordinance. https://t.co/cx6m3ARNYK
— KDKA (@KDKA) April 9, 2021
The city officials reported that they had received about 100 formal comments on the flag, half positive and half negative.
“It doesn’t really bother me much, it’s just weird seeing it up again,” neighbor Patrick Cayanan said. “Like, are they campaigning again for 2024?”
City officials will discuss what to do with the flag.
Before that, in the middle of March, Don Hilton, the Sheriff of Oswego County, New York, was also accused of breaking the Hatch Act by flying a pro-Trump flag on his patrol boat last summer.
According to Syracuse, Hilton said he continued to fly a “Make America Great Again” flag given to him by a rally participant while patrolling Oneida Lake during a “Flotilla for Trump” rally in August.
Hilton later admitted that he allowed the flag to be flown from the government-owned patrol boat because Trump “has supported law enforcement at a time when many groups are unjustly vilifying our profession.”
The OSC (U.S. Office of Special Counsel). said Hilton and the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office are subject to the Hatch Act because the department receives federal funding for specific activities and is therefore covered by the law.
According to a letter from the OSC, Hilton will face disciplinary action if he engages in direct political activity that breaches the Hatch Act again.
“Please be advised that if you engage in any future prohibited political activity while employed in a Hatch Act-covered position, OSC would consider such activity to be a willful and knowing violation of the law that could result in disciplinary action,” Erica Hamrick, the deputy chief of the Hatch Act Unit, said.
Hilton informed his elected authorities that he would not break the Hatch Act again.
“I have reassured the chairman and other members of the Legislature that it will not occur again,” he said, according to Syracuse.
But Hilton said the incident had inspired him to “be even more vocal about the unjust and hypocritical criticism of police by anti-democracy groups and certain politicians who pander to them.”
“I will do so on my own time, on my own dime… and as loudly as I can!” Hilton promised.
“I respect the right of people to have a critical opinion of what I did—this is America after all, and freedom of speech is part of what the flag stands for. But let’s keep a clear-headed perspective here: I flew a political flag on taxpayers’ property, yet many of the people criticizing me for that also defend rioters who destroy taxpayers’ property!” Hilton said.
“Is it a sign of people thinking reasonably when they support policies that excuse and set free those who commit criminal acts of violence and assault, while at the same time call for the termination of me and my Deputies simply for flying a flag? It is not,” Hilton added.