Teen who allegedly crumpled up 'back the blue' sign charged with hate crime

A Utah teen has been charged with a hate crime for allegedly stomping on and crumpling up a “back the blue” sign, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Garfield County Sheriff’s Deputy Cree Carter said in a statement that when he was doing a routine traffic stop at a gas station, he saw a teen take a “back the blue” sign and stomp on it. 

“Back the blue” is a slogan that shows solidarity with law enforcement in the country, often used to counter Black Lives Matter protests, as well. 

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The teen, identified as 19-year-old Lauren Gibson, allegedly crumpled the sign in a “destructive manner” and started to smirk at Carter in “an intimidating manner,” according to the officer's statement. 

Carter then arrested Gibson and charged her with “criminal mischief” with a hate-crime enhancement, which strengthens penalties toward hate crime offenses, the Post reported. 

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Gibson said the charges against her came as a shock, stating that she only did it in response to Carter’s aggressive approach toward her friend. 

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

Gibson’s arrest comes after another Utah resident, Joseph Dawson, 32, was sentenced to two days in jail in December for pulling down a similar sign and spray-painting the word “bisexual" in pink letters on it, according to the Daily Beast. 

In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah said it is “troubled and disappointed” with Gibson’s arrest, saying that this sends a “chilling message” to the community that the government and law enforcement will seek harsher punishments on those who disagree with police actions. 

“Finally, this case is a reminder that we believe that prosecutors should exercise their discretion about whether to bring any criminal charges at all with an eye toward what kinds of incidents are truly worth using government resources to pursue," the statement reads. "Bringing a charge against this person that could result in her spending a year in jail makes no sense both in terms of simple fairness and expending the county’s time and money.”

The Hill has reached out to the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office for comment.