Interesting discussion last night about the mural painted on the side of a building in the Bergen County town of Elmwood Park.

At issue is whether or not it’s a sign, or protected political speech.

Here’s the deal.

A mural depicting a faceless person wearing a hoodie (looking much like the “ghost of things to come” in “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”) was painted on the side of the wall of a deli by some local artists.

There is an inscription written above the mural saying, “Trayvon…We Got You”.

And while the artists call the mural in Elmwood Park an expression of solidarity for the young shooting victim, some neighbors oppose the display, saying it promotes gang activity.

According to this,
Lawrence Langerlaan who’s lived 44 years in the neighborhood, called the mayor’s office to complain.
Langeriaan said. "That type of art goes with gangs," "It's a hooded character with no face. How am I supposed to interpret it?"

But, in a recent interview with NJTV, ACLU-NJ Executive Director Deborah Jacobs said that the mural is protected by the first amendment.

She said, "One of the things that people commonly misunderstand is that political speech holds a higher level attention than other kinds of speech, such as advertising or business-related speech.

Jacobs also said that her organization looked into the zoning bylaws in Elmwood Park and found that they were too vague to be applied to the mural.

(Advance to 3:00 into the video.)

Town officials, such as Mayor Richard Mola said, "We got multiple complaints from residents in the area," "What they told me is they just don’t like what’s up there."

Mola, who said he has not seen the mural, said the building inspector told the artists to paint over the work because it violated local ordinances. He could not specify which ones.

The town’s website defines graffiti as "knowingly vandalizing or defacing property."

The artists had the support of the building’s owner John Quinn. "I want them to use this as a canvas to bring other issues to the public," he said.

Mayor Mola told Fox 5 in New York (report below), that if the building's owner, John Quinn, wants to keep the mural, he will have to obtain a permit from the town.

It would appear to me that in the absence of any clear cut definaiton of what constitutes a “sign”; that it is, in fact, “art”, and could be considered protected political speech.

Much as I hate to agree with the ACLU.

I’m not nuts about wall paintings and murals to begin with.

But unless a town adopts a specific ordinance defining signs that pass constitutional muster; you’ll be seeing more of this coming to a neighborhood near you.

Posse poll time:

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