Shawangunk resident Jim Starr submitted a petition to the town board Thursday, claiming that Chief of Police Gerald Marlatt’s First Amendment rights had been violated.
This is in response to Marlatt coming under fire for having a pro-Trump sign on his front lawn on Route 52 in Walker Valley. The sign sparked complaints in Letters to the Editor in the Wallkill Valley Times and to the Shawangunk Town Board.
“It has come to our attention there is a group that has attempted, and effectively has, violated Chief Marlatt’s Constitutional free speech rights by forcing the involuntary removal of a political sign from his personal property,” the petition read. “In doing so, it is feared by the undersigned that this opens the Town Board and Town to a lawsuit if not appropriately rectified by affirming Chief Marlatt’s First Amendment rights with regard to this issue.”
Approximately 200 Shawangunk residents signed the petition.
Town officials defended the Marlatt in last week’s Wallkill Valley Times.
“Legally there’s nothing saying that Chief Marlatt cannot support the candidate of his choice,” said Shawangunk Town Councilman Brian Amthor last week. “He has that right, as does every other citizen of this country.”
Marlatt said that the sign, which had been put up by his fiance, has been removed.
“I just think it’s a shame that somebody would infringe on another’s right to free speech,” he said last week. “Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our founding fathers protected that sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution.”
The uproar comes amid complaints from both sides of the political aisle complaining that political signs have been vandalized and/or stolen throughout the town.
“What has happened to civility,”read a post of the Town of Shawangunk Republican Committee Facebook page. “Civility has apparently taken a leave of absence here in the Town of Shawangunk. A recent series of events makes me wonder what has happened to our town. It is no longer about getting along with and helping your neighbor, but rather a sharp divide based upon political ideologies.
“The events that I am referring to is the damage and theft of political signs on both sides of the political spectrum. The Shawangunk Republican Committee will not condone nor tolerate this lawlessness and lack of civility. Signs supporting both Republican and Democratic candidates were targeted in the past few weeks. This behavior cannot be allowed, and those responsible should be brought to justice.
“Let us get back to civility and allow the sharing of opposing views positively and constructively.”