La Crosse man to reinstall ‘impeach’ sign after city code challenge

A La Crosse man plans to put his yard sign, which is critical of President Trump, back up in his yard, after the city said it wasn’t allowed.

Dennis Lawrence said that, for months, he felt compelled to say something about his dissatisfaction with the way President Trump was running the country. What he didn’t realize is that the way he chose to do it would get him a lot of pushback from the city.

“I’m kind of wondering what I got myself into now,” Lawrence said.

Sitting inside his home near the corner of West Avenue and Green Bay Street, Lawrence said that a few weeks after he installed the sign in the summer, he was notified by the city that it wasn’t up to code.

“What was your immediate reaction?” asked News 8.

“Um, what ordinance?” Lawrence said.

He said he went to City Hall where officials told him the sign needed to be less than 12 square feet. He later received a call saying that it couldn’t be more than one square foot in size.

“I didn’t swallow that at all,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence contacted the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, which took up his case. Asma Kadri, a staff attorney for the ACLU, said limits could only be put on a political sign if was about a candidate or issue on a ballot.

‘If one of those two things are triggered, then the city has the ability under this code section to regulate the size and where it is,” said Kadri.

This criteria didn’t fit, and requiring the sign to be one square foot wasn’t in any city code. In November, Kadri sent a letter to the city, citing a 2015 Supreme Court decision that struck down a similar ordinance.

“Under current U.S. law and federal law and the Constitution, as it stands, the ordinance in La Crosse is unconstitutional,” Kadri said.

The city notified the ACLU that it would be rescinding the order but the sign would have to meet the 12-square-foot requirement.

“That’s plenty big enough to express our opinion,” Lawrence said.

When it comes down to it, Lawrence said, that’s really what this was all about.

“Dad’s a World War II veteran. He fought for freedom of speech. I’m just exercising that right,” Lawrence said.