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Obscene Biden flag on Carroll County road deemed inappropriate by some, example of free speech by others

Drivers headed down Md. 30 in Hampstead on Hanover Pike may have noticed an eye-catching flag that uses an obscenity to assail President Joe Biden. Some people hate it, others like it. But county and state officials say there’s nothing to be done about it — it’s a perfectly legal form of free speech.

The flag that was hanging on the Hampstead home during the summer read “F--- Biden” in white letters but with a middle finger replacing the “U.” At the bottom, the flag stated “and f--- you for voting for him.” The flag that hangs now carries the same message but without the middle finger.

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Carroll County officials said they received complaints about it while the owner said he received compliments. In the end, its presence is constitutional.

A flag with an obscenity refering to President Joe Biden is displayed on the fence surrounding a home in the 1900 block of Hanover Pike in Hampstead Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021.
A flag with an obscenity refering to President Joe Biden is displayed on the fence surrounding a home in the 1900 block of Hanover Pike in Hampstead Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Dylan Slagle)

The flags belonged to David Shugars, who lives in the home. Shugars said during the summer that he took down the middle finger flag temporarily as a favor to his neighbor who was trying to sell their house.

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He said on Tuesday the neighbor sold the house and he replaced the now worn middle finger flag with two other “F--- Biden” flags. However, he said someone ripped one of them off. He also has a banner that states “God Bless America” in red, white and blue.

“So many people have honked and yelled, ‘We love it,’ ” he said, adding they stopped to take pictures and gave thumbs-up.

But not everyone.

Tim Burke, county attorney, said he has received complaints about the flag but the county cannot do anything about it. When it comes to signs and flags, the county only has the power to regulate the placement and the size if they are on county property, he said.

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Regulating Shugars’ flag would be unconstitutional, Burke said.

The Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration also has no jurisdiction since the flag is on private property, “is not classified as off-premise advertising and is protected by the [First] Amendment,” according to Sherry Christian, media relations manager.

Cynthia Wallace, of Millers, said she was really unhappy about it and reported it to the county commissioners.

“I know people have political differences but it’s not a great way to express them,” she said. “I understand free speech, I support it; but there’s a time you have to distinguish a little bit and say things differently.”

Wallace said the flag was meant to be offensive to both the president and those who voted for him, adding she hopes people can teach their children to not be that way.

In addition, Ryan Adam of Westminster wrote a letter to the editor of the Carroll County Times that last week assailing this “childish” form of political speech.

“There are better ways to establish family discussions than by triggering ones where parents have to explain to their children that certain people never managed to grow up and learn that they don’t always get their way,” Adam wrote.

County Commissioner Richard Weaver, a Republican representing District 2, said in an interview some people are upset about the flag, especially those with kids.

Shugars has the right to voice his opinion, but he could do it by using better language, Weaver said.

Weaver added people are upset, society is divided and COVID-19 and the 2020 election are the reasons why. But one of the things the commissioners have been trying to focus on is to “help unify the county and not tear them apart.”

Shugars said his neighbor who was trying to sell their house was reluctant to ask him to take the flag down. And although Shugars agreed, he said his initial response was that he was “trying to keep the American haters away” and he does not want liberals living near him.

“Trump 2024,” Shugars said. “Let’s do it. I think that’s the last president we ever need.”

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