David Gardner: Concerned about sign removal in Easthampton

Sunday, June 11, 2017
Concerned about sign’s removal in Easthampton

In times like these it is more important than ever to focus more attention on fair and equal access to freedom of expression in the public realm.

In recent weeks, I have been witness to what seems to be the twice illicit removal of a “Black Lives Matter” sign from the shoulder of Route 141 in a residential district near the base of Mount Tom. I first noticed the sign two weeks ago placed in the ground alongside a sign of similar size bearing the message “We support the Easthampton Police” which appeared there early this year.

The first removal of the “Black Lives Matter” sign occurred just prior to Memorial Day weekend. By Wednesday of the following week, it was back. Within a couple of days, it was gone again. However, this time a new, much larger sign announcing a church bazaar was in its place alongside the police sign.

Easthampton boasts a whopping 18 pages of sign regulations in its land-use ordinance. In it, special event and political signs in residential districts are limited to 6 square feet. The “Black Lives Matter” and police signs looked to be less than that. The church bazaar sign appears to be upwards of 30 square feet.

The ordinance also stipulates time limits for which temporary signs may be displayed. Political signs — “noncommercial signs erected to show support for a candidate for public office or to express a political opinion” — may be displayed for up to 99 days. Special-event signs may be displayed for 14 days unless otherwise stipulated in the ordinance.

Considering the current political climate, I find it extremely problematic that, of the three signs that have occupied that one public location, the only one that meets the provisions set forth in Easthampton’s sign ordinance — the only legitimate sign — is the one that has been removed.

David Gardner