The following is guest submission by Matthew La Corte, a student of Hofstra University.
“Resistance to illegal and unconstitutional usurpation of our rights is required.” – Ron Paul
At the most basic level, libertarianism is defined by property rights. Property extends from your body to the physical property of your home to even your front lawn. Last June, as a proud supporter of the Ron Paul Revolution, I bought two Ron Paul 2012 lawn signs. Upon arrival, I stabbed the legs of the sign in the ground and smiled as I just turned my front lawn into a Ron Paul advertisement on a busy road in Woodland Park, New Jersey. Fast forward a few weeks later, I woke up to find a summons warning from the local Code Enforcement Office in my town. According to Woodland Park ordinance #95-8, residents are not allowed to display political signs on property until 30 days before an election. Since the New Jersey primary is in June 2012, and this was June of 2011, I had to wait 335 days to display my signs. I was not ready to bend at the will of the town. So, I took the warning to Town Hall. I approached the Code Enforcement Office, where I was told I could not display any signs at all. I told the office’s secretary that if I received the summons I would be willing to take the town to court. This was a simple First Amendment case that was taken to court numerous other times in New Jersey towns where the resident won. I was threatened with a $100 dollar fine for every day I kept the signs up. Until the last court date, I would have owed about $25,000.
I received a second warning a few weeks later and then finally the actual summons a few weeks after that. I was to appear in court in September for violating the ordinance at a cost of $100 a day. I immediately reached out to Brian Aitken, the ex-New Jersey resident who was jailed for his legal moving of firearms in his car in New Jersey. He realized the importance of the story and forwarded me to his lawyer as well as posting the story on his website. The lawsuit appeared in local news, Reason.com, and FreedomWatch. The town was flooded with phone calls to the point they disconnected their phones because they were bombarded with so many liberty-loving callers supporting property rights. Those Ron Paul 2012 signs stayed up throughout the whole winter even when snow was on the ground. They are effective, albeit faded and rusting. After numerous court dates and cancelled court dates over the next eight months, we received the news we all thought was obvious.
Last Wednesday, March 21, the town prosecutor decided to drop the case, and the town has agreed to rewrite the law. After eight months, my weathered Ron Paul signs are still standing legally in Woodland Park. We all have the ability to fight for liberty and little cases like this yield big results. No government, whether federal, state, or local, should at any time think they can get away with curbing private property rights. If there is anything liberty lovers should fight for, it’s our property and our body. If Woodland Park could tell me how to decorate my front lawn, what is stopping them from passing legislation regarding bumper stickers on cars or shirts on people? Woodland Park has a population of 11,000. It’s another little town in northern New Jersey that most people have never heard of. Because I fought for my rights, the town’s unconstitional ordinance will now be overturned. It’s very easy to rollover and let the government win. After all, they were only two signs on one lawn in one town— what’s the big deal, right? Wrong. The state must know we are not to stand for awful laws and ordinances meant to micromanage our lives. So, I implore everyone in SFL to fight for liberty on fronts like this, on college campuses, and in all their daily dealings.