Minnesota appeals court: Trump flag protected free speech

BUFFALO, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Court of Appeals has sided with a man who said he shouldn’t have been fined for flying a huge Donald Trump flag atop a crane over his business, calling it a protected expression of free speech.

The Buffalo City Council had found the 30- by 50-foot (9- by 15-meter) flag that Jay Johnson flew over his construction business in 2020 violated a local sign ordinance because of its size and because Johnson did not have a permit. The flag read: “TRUMP 2020 Keep America Great.”

The council fined Johnson $600.

In its ruling Monday, the appeals court reversed the council’s decision, the Star Tribune reported.

It said the city ordinance does not apply to noncommercial speech and that it “impermissibly creates a content-based regulation of speech.”

It was unclear if the city planned to appeal to the state Supreme Court. A city attorney did not respond the the newspaper’s request for comment.

“We believe one of the bedrock foundations in this country is you can’t publicly punish someone for their political speech," said Johnson’s attorney Aaron Dean.

Johnson, 55, said he displayed the flag before the 2020 presidential campaign. After Democrat Joe Biden was declared the winner, police stopped by and told Johnson he had 10 days to take it down. Johnson removed the flag, but reconsidered and briefly put it back up in April 2021.

Johnson said he plans to hoist the Trump flag anew and will hold an event to herald its return.