When Hate Speech Leads to Violence

I recently received an email from the wife of a person listed on the public sex offense registry in a small town in Washington State. She was immensely concerned about seeing a pickup truck parked at a local business sporting a decal portraying a man shooting a kneeling man, execution-style, in the back of the head, with the caption reading, “Shoot Your Local Pedophile.”

(The truck also displayed a #SaveOurChildren sticker, a QAnon slogan adopted from Anita Bryant’s defunct anti-homosexuality crusades.)

She voiced her concerns to her local authorities. They dismissed the concerns as free speech, and it was of no more concern than someone offended over a “Jesus Saves” bumper sticker.

But this is more than a free speech issue. It threatens lives.

Research has consistently shown most sex crimes occur in the home, by someone known to the victim,[1] and most arrests are of those without a past conviction for a sex offense.[2] In addition, very few people listed on the public registries are “pedophiles” or repeat offenders, and the already low re-offense rates[3] can be reduced further by providing opportunities to allow those who completed a sentence to become productive members of society.[4]

Yet, we still believe that everyone listed on the registry is an imminent danger to society or an uncontrollable “pedophile.” Thus, we turn a blind eye to speech that promotes violence against people listed on public registries.

hate

Photo courtesy Derek Logue

Hate speech and other offensive language is protected by the First Amendment, which allows groups as Westboro Baptist Church, the KKK, and QAnon to promote hatred against otherwise protected groups.

There are, however, some limits to “Freedom of Speech.”

In Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), the Supreme Court ruled speech is not protected if “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”

Does displaying a bumper sticker calling for citizens to murder “pedophiles” incite violence?

Those who reform the registry believe this is plausible. In September, the Alliance for Constitutional Sex Offense Laws called for major retailers such as eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and Facebook to stop allowing merchandise promoting violence against Registered Persons to be sold on their websites.[5]

Results were mixed; some offensive items were removed, but most items that were reported have remained on the retailers’ websites. One independent merchant from Indiana responded to complaints by telling people to “F**k Off,” encouraging suicide, and threatened to dox and assault complainers.

These groups have good reason to be concerned about the sales of such inflammatory items. In May 2020, an Omaha man armed with a gun and data taken from the Nebraska registry and a Facebook vigilante group murdered a Registered Person. The vigilante group sold T-Shirts on Facebook to raise money for the killer’s defense.[6]

Washington State in particular has been a hotspot for vigilante violence against people listed on the public sex offense registry.  In 2005, Michael Anthony Mullen used data from the state’s sex offense registry to murder two Registered Persons[7]. One of his cellmates was a career criminal named Patrick Drum, who also used the sex offense registry to murder two Registered Persons in 2012[8].

In 2008, Tammy Lee Gibson[9] was declared a hero for an unprovoked attack on a Registrant in Puyallup; she served only 90 days.

Furthermore, the QAnon conspiracy has revised long-debunked conspiracy theories of a vast underground cabal of cannibalistic, Satanic pedophiles controlling the world. In response, numerous “#SaveOurChildren” rallies have sprung up across the country.

Among other things, these rallies promote stronger penalties for people convicted of sexual offenses.

Many signs spotted at these rallies hold signs like “Sex Offender Lives Don’t Matter” or making memes that suggest torturing and/ or killing people on the sex offense registry.

Some of these rallies have been suspected of engaging in criminal activity. In the small town of Washington, Iowa, a group calling themselves “132 Feet” began protesting a Registrant in the area, holding signs proclaiming “A Child Molester Lives Here” along with the QAnon slogan “Save Our Children.”

The Registrant reported multiple threats and acts of vandalism by this group; one of these protesters was later arrested for making online threats and exposing himself[10] to the Registrant.

Now, imagine the outrage if these retailers sold a bumper sticker that suggested we shoot our local Christians, Jewish people, racial minorities, LGBTQ+, Republicans, Democrats, gun owners, law enforcement officers, Veterans, children, or politicians. Currently, they do not sell items with similar slogans for these protected groups, but have many policies prohibiting sales of items deemed offensive or promoting violence and hate.

On eBay, it is against policy to sell copies of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” unless it includes a critical commentary. Facebook has similar policies, but listed an exception in their Terms of Service for comments directed to those accused or convicted of sexual offenses. (Facebook removed that exception only after a Washington Examiner article[11] exposed this exception to the rule.)

Why should this policy be any different for people who have served time and are struggling to become productive members of society?

derek logue

Derek Logue

Life on the public sex offense registry is already difficult. Registered Persons are already socially ostracized and struggle to find housing, employment, and other basic needs.[12] Openly encouraging violence against Registrants benefits no one.

Crimes against Registered Persons are crimes nonetheless. Social media outlets and online retailers should be held accountable for encouraging criminal activity if allowed to continue selling merchandise actively

encouraging violence, and legislators should  be encouraged to add reasonable protections for Registered Persons and their loved ones.

 

Derek W. Logue is a Nebraska registrant and activist for the rights of returning citizens, and founder of the sex offense education and reform website OnceFallen.com.

[1] https://www.dps.texas.gov/crimereports/11/citCh7.pdf

[2] https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232505213_Does_a_Watched_Pot_Boil_A_Time-Series_Analysis_of_New_York_State’s_Sex_Offender_Registration_and_Notification_Law

[3] http://www.oncefallen.com/Recidivism101.html

[4] http://www.soccjournal.org/2005-06/Wakefield_2006.pdf

[5] https://all4consolaws.org/2020/09/action-alert-email-websites-that-offer-kill-a-pedophile-merchandise/

[6] https://omaha.com/news/crime/omaha-man-says-killing-sex-offender-was-justified-and-doesnt-think-a-jury-will-convict/article_c7954562-744b-56a1-9f69-b6fae594b4eb.html

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/07/us/man-charged-in-killings-of-sex-offenders.html

[8] https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/the-vigilante-of-clallam-county/281968/

[9] https://tdn.com/article_651ac6ae-a305-5eee-88f7-6738dfac57db.html

[10] https://www.kciiradio.com/2020/09/03/man-arrested-for-indecent-exposure-harassment-at-registered-sex-offenders-home/

[11] https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/facebook-updates-standards-to-allow-death-threats-against-alleged-sexual-offenders

[12] https://www.womenagainstregistry.org/resources/pdf/Collateral-Damage-Family-Members-of-Registered-Sex-Offenders-Jill-Levenson.pdf

5 comments for “When Hate Speech Leads to Violence

  1. Alan Dsvis
    November 16, 2020 at 7:48 am

    Truly GREAT article Derek. I sincerely hope that either it or links to it are being circulated everywhere.

    • Derrick
      November 27, 2020 at 6:29 am

      Great article is correct. Thank you. I have been harrassed, threatened and had my home broken into many times by my neighbors and the police only reply: “Neighbors will be neighbors!”

  2. tracy
    December 14, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    i was arrested for felony asult on my girl freind vandalisim of my owen house boat that we lived on togather got out jail pled to vandalism of my owen boat and was told couldnt go home not even to get my cloths so i went to my storage unit thats in my name and got some clothes she finds that i cut her lock off and calls the cops while in another state and has the guy who i caught her coming off his boat .meet the cop at my storage unit and wen the cop arrives he the boyfreind told the cop he cut my lock off her storage unit cop talks to manager who says yup its hers with out asking for rental agreement he puts out another warrent on me for burglry over 10.000$ vandalisim again .i spent two years 10.000 $ later and going to a grand jury they drop all charges and they had the rental agreement the hole time that is scary .its getting to were they will lock us up for no reason or a made up one you have to choices plead out or fight and its not cheap getting someone to defend you and they acully do there job my first lawyer threw me under the bus what can i do to stop them,

  3. Tim in WI
    December 18, 2020 at 6:40 pm

    I can say the State of WI lists me on the registry without process to defend myself except by FTR. A While back I posted a link on SOSEN private forum a motion to write a petition to demand Chief Justice John Roberts step down based on his Role in upholding ex post fact law contained in the Wetterling act which upheld indentured servitude as not a punishment on its face. The group would not even attempt to draft the simple but formal request. Roberts is as responsible as any judge for upholding basic constitutional limitation on GOV POWER contained in Art1 sec. 9-10. Even that most basic restraint – the use of certain language by congress – is obliterated for the sake of THE DATABASE.

    How is it the first enslaved, the sex offender, would not support a petition to remove a person involved in the institionalization of enslavement to the machine.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4cLswLTZ18o

  4. Scott
    January 22, 2021 at 11:29 pm

    I have had the same problems like that too. I find when you see these cancel culture groups and censoring of different articles and websites that go against what they believe go against their beliefs or agenda, why aren’t they blocking the offender registry?? I am going through a lot of harassment at my job and it’s getting pretty hostile and I am to the point I may have no choice but to quit, yet again. Why, because it that easy for someone to just Google your name and wallah, your name pops up.

    This the thing that really angers me as most jobs require you to wear a badge with your name. I don’t know what else to do as we truly are the group where our lives don’t matter. I have been ignored by law enforcement before and also by many of those who are in authority.

    Please note, that just because an employer is labeled as a second chance employer, it doesn’t always mean they will hire a sex offender. Yes this place is a second chance employer and yet this is what they blatantly ignore or care to deal with. Everyday I go to work walking on pins and needles and watching my back like I could be jumped. I also fear going to the bathroom and getting jumped.

    I have no idea why it is allowed or why it is that easy to be able to Google someone’s name like that. In my opinion that is nothing more than violation of privacy. I do get the Pros and the Cons, but just because 1 person or more could be a repeat offender, doesn’t mean we all should be painted with the same broad brush.

    I said this before that it is almost as bad as identity theft with the same dangers. But different circumstances. I am to the point now, that I don’t find myself in a hurry to speak out or against anyone who is being harassed because I too am being treated like I am 2nd or 3rd class. I don’t want to be that way. Now my response to anyone who asks me anything to that issue, I simply reply with, it’s not my circus or my monkeys and walk off.

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