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19-Year-Old Charged With Hate Crime For Destroying 'Back The Blue' Sign

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19-year-old Lauren Gibson faces up to a year in jail on hate crime charges after police say she crumpled up and threw a “back the blue” sign in front of a sheriff’s deputy

A 19-year-old woman has been charged with a hate crime in Utah after a sheriff’s deputy said she destroyed a “Back the Blue” sign in front of him and was “smirking” at him in an “intimidating manner” following a traffic stop. Lauren Gibson, a 19-year-old woman from California, was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal mischief with a hate crime enhancement, a misdemeanor in the state that carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy Cree Carter wrote in his probable cause affidavit that he saw Gibson “stomping on a ‘Back the Blue’ sign next to where the traffic stop was conducted, crumble it up in a destructive manner and throw it into a trash can all while smirking in an intimidating manner towards me.” He wrote that the allegations were being considered a hate crime because of “the demeanor displayed by Gibson in attempts to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a ‘Pro Law Enforcement’ sign.”

Gibson told The Daily Beast that she and her friends were returning home to California after a camping trip with Carter pulled them over and wrote her friend a speeding ticket. Gibson said she didn’t like the way Carter acted during the traffic stop, saying he was “aggressive.” So she picked up a rusty “Back the Blue” sign she and her friends had found littered on the side of the road, waved it at the officer, stepped on it, and threw it in the trash.

“I just wanted to, I don’t know, make her feel better or something or stand up for her,” Gibson said.

In a statement, the sheriff’s office claimed the “Back the Blue” sign was stolen, and that Gibson displayed “extremely aggressive and violent behavior towards the officer in a very busy parking lot.” They said that Gibson “purposely targeted the officer in a very unpeaceful manner,” and that deputy Carter was “singled out and attacked by this person because he was a law enforcement officer.”

“We are greatly disturbed by the hatred shown to law enforcement officers for no apparent reason,” the sheriff’s office added. “We are hopeful that this country can mend and heal from the division.”

You can’t commit a hate crime against someone’s profession. That is quite literally not how hate crimes work. But in 2019, Utah passed a new hate crime law that provides harsher punishment for people convicted of targeting victims based on race, gender, and age, but also their “status as a law enforcement officer.” Luckily, the ACLU of Utah has stepped in and is working to help Gibson mount a defense.

In a statement, the ACLU said the charge “sends an extremely chilling message to the community that the government will seek harsher punishment for people charged with crimes who disagree with police actions.” The statement continued with a warning that, in Utah, hate crime enhancements are being used to “single out unpopular groups or messages rather than provide protections for marginalized communities.”