Glendale Homeowners Association orders Black Lives Matter sign removed
GLENDALE – Melanie Boyle hung a hand-painted Black Lives Matter sign at her home in July to show her support for the movement and its demands for justice.
“I wanted to do this little act of putting up a sign and opening more conversation about it in my area,” she said.
Conversations with his neighbors went well, with some also voicing their support for BLM and a supporter of President Donald Trump who recognized Boyle’s family’s rights to display their views.
Then, in September, she received a different response. Her owners’ association, or HOA, sent her a notice of violation.
Boyle didn’t have it. One block from hers, the 36-year-old doctor said, are six houses displaying Trump 2020 flags. If those are allowed, she thought, her cardboard sign should be too.
Discussion threads, political signs and notices of violation
Election season staples, political placards and banners litter busy streets and appear in the gardens of the Phoenix Metro. Throughout the year, some neighbors use flags and signs to show their allegiance to sports team logos or to show “Congratulations! You graduated! ”Signs.
A Phoenix attorney with expertise in HOAs said issues in Boyle’s BLM Signs case include First Amendment rights to use signs to speak your mind about the legal status of Boyle. HOA to regulate signs, and whether HOA policies are applied inconsistently.
A trail of emails shows Boyle’s attempts at clarification.
On August 18, Boyle’s HOA in North Glendale, which is operated by Spectrum Association Management in Chandler, sent out a mass email to residents with policy updates on Home Security System Panels, real estate signs and political signs.
The company cited the city of Glendale’s code for political signs, set the maximum number and size of signs allowed, and said they couldn’t be posted more than 71 days before an election. The non-compliant panels had to be removed within three days, he said.
This meant that the first residents could display political signs was August 24. Five days before that, Boyle sent an email asking if the bans included his family’s BLM sign.
“Black Lives Matters signs are not allowed, as well as political flags,” Spectrum replied.
Violation notices start with a warning and then a fine of $ 50 which increases with the number of violations. Boyle removed his sign.
But she suspected that Spectrum was not applying the rules consistently. She emailed Spectrum again, this time about the six Trump 2020 flags on the nearby street. The company responded that the flag restrictions would not be enforced if the flags are in good condition and removed after the November 3 election.
Boyle responded that a Black Lives Matter flag should then be acceptable, and she put her sign back in place on September 4, intending to replace it with a BLM flag once it arrived in the mail.
Boyle received an official notice of violation in the mail, dated September 8, stating that she was in violation of the HOA’s reporting policy.
“This is a violation of property maintenance on your property. Please take action to correct the problem. The sign on your property must be removed, ”the notice warned.
Spectrum referred Cronkite News to its attorney, Beth Mulcahy, who did not respond to requests for comment via email and voicemail.
Political sign or violation of property maintenance?
Opal Tometi, one of three women who co-founded Black Lives Matter in 2013, wrote on her website that BLM is a human rights issue, a view widely supported in some circles but controversial in others.
Jonathan Dessaules, HOA lawyer at Dessaules Law Group in Phoenix, does not represent Boyle but offered a legal perspective on his BLM sign.
It is reasonable to argue that a BLM sign should be considered a protected political sign under Arizona Law, he said, adding: “No one is going to believe that a Black Lives Matter sign is apolitical.”
Dessaules emphasized the importance of an HOA’s rules, known as statements of commitments, conditions and restrictions, or CC&R. Homeowners agree to abide by CC&R, which often prohibits any modification to the exterior of a home, including a sign or flag, without approval.
According to the notice of violation sent to Boyle, his neighborhood CC&R states that “No sign or advertisement of any kind may be placed, authorized or maintained without the prior written approval and permission of Council.” .
However, Dessaules said, if Spectrum did not regulate other types of signs and flags, such as congratulatory signs and those intended for sports teams, Boyle would have a strong argument that she is discriminated against.
A key question needs to be answered, he said: “Does the association take a position on speech that suggests its actions are designed to ban only certain political speeches, as opposed to all speeches?” ”
Dessaules also questions Spectrum’s reference to the city code that defines political signs as those supporting a candidate or electoral measure.
“City code enforcement is not the role of HOAs,” Dessaules said.
The power of signs, flags to connect people
Boyle said she needed to establish what she and her family stood for when they moved into homeownership.
“Considering all the changes in our country at the moment and the way the civil rights movement has woken up, I felt it was the right time to get involved,” she said. declared, and displaying the sign was a way to interact with the neighbors.
Boyle said his family were in the front yard when an elderly couple passed by and said he also supported BLM.
A neighbor who supports Trump has said he respects Boyle’s right to publicly express support for BLM.
Another neighbor shared with her how he grew up in Mesa as a minority and understands what it’s like to fight for equality.
Only a few responses were negative.
On September 5, someone walking past their house yelled at Boyle’s husband to remove the sign and shouted that all lives matter.
Boyle’s BLM sign was stolen on September 11.
On September 23, she replaced the sign with a BLM flag, hanging at her home above the driveway.
She did not receive any further notice of violation.