Utah teenager faces a year in prison for stomping on a 'Back the Blue' sign while smirking
via David Geitgey Sierralupe / Flickr

One of the greatest things about being an American is freedom of speech. The First Amendment guarantees every American the right to speak their mind without fear of reprisal for having an unpopular, offensive, or downright dangerous opinion.

In America, speech is such a protected act that you can burn the American flag because it's seen as a "symbolic speech." There's something special about a country that values individual expression over protecting a symbol of the state.


However, authoritarians of all political stripes are constantly making rules that impinge on these sacred freedoms. Most recently, a police officer in Panguitch, Utah arrested a 19-year-old woman for stomping on a "Back the Blue" sign, crumbling it up, and throwing it in a trashcan. The signs had recently been printed up by the local Sheriff's department.

The officer also complained that she did so "while smirking in an intimidating manner towards me." The incident happened while the officer was making a traffic stop at a gas station.

Here's the "Back the Blue" symbol for those who are unfamiliar.

Now, the interaction should have stopped there. The officer may have been bothered by her anti-cop rhetoric, but that's not justification to arrest someone. The officer is probably in the wrong business if they're offended by someone stomping on a pro-police sign while "smirking."

But the cop took things a step further by questioning the woman about where she got the sign. First, she said it was her mother's, but the police believed she "had acquired it in our community." The woman later admitted to finding the sign on the ground.

The woman was then read her Miranda rights.

"Due to [the woman] destroying property that did not belong to her in a manner to attempt to intimidate law enforcement, I placed her under arrest," the affidavit says. The allegations against the woman are being treated as a "hate crime enhanced allegation" due to "the demeanor displayed by [the woman] in attempts to intimidate law enforcement while destroying a 'Pro Law Enforcement' sign."

Utah law states that anybody who destroys property with the intent to "intimidate or terrorize another person or with reason to believe that his action would intimidate or terrorize that person" is subject to a class A misdemeanor.

The law also defines "intimidate or terrorize" as "an act which causes the person to fear for his physical safety or damages the property of that person or another."

The woman faces up to a year in prison or a fine of up to $2,500.

If the police officer was truly doing their job they would have acknowledged that the woman was simply exercising her freedom of speech, a right that law enforcement is bound to protect.

Instead, the officer seems to have taken the low road and arrested the woman for hurting their feelings. It's hard to believe that a gun-carrying officer would feel terrorized by someone because they were smirking at them.

If setting fire to an American flag representing the entire country is protected as "symbolic speech" then stomping on a sign of an American flag with a blue line that only represents a small fraction of Americans should surely be protected as well.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."