An Illinois man has been charged with a felony hate crime after attacking an LGBTQ-friendly bakery. The bakery sparked controversy after announcing a “family-friendly drag show” online. The threats and vandalism forced the bakery to cancel the show. Now, a 24-year-old Illinois man is facing felony charges related to vandalism plus the hate crime intensifier. The man, along with others, is accused of leaving feces on the doorstep, harassing employees, and making in-person and online threats. He also inspired a group of people to join in. Those people left a sign outside the business that said, “pedophiles work here.”
The man accused of vandalizing the bakery was caught in the act. A local resident saw him breaking windows and spray-painting messages that police described as hateful. After the incident, the bakery reported that they would cancel the drag show over safety concerns of the performers.
What is Going on Here?
Well, there are things you can stop and there are things you can’t. You can arrest someone for vandalizing a business and add a hate crime intensifier if the act was spurred by prejudice or bigotry, but you cannot stop these individuals from communicating online and sharing vicious delusions about marginalized communities. It does not matter what marginalized community you are from, you probably made it into someone’s hate-fueled delusion.
While you can arrest people for committing crimes, it remains legal to spread lies about marginalized communities even when those lies provoke attacks against the communities. You cannot hold 4Chan, 8Chan, Facebook, Reddit, or any other site accountable either due to protections afforded these sites from lawsuits. In the case of 4Chan, the site advertises the fact that it allows users to post anonymously. 8Chan is a dark web version of 4Chan, which makes it even harder for police. Further, attempting to track down users from these sites is sometimes difficult, especially in cases where the user uses VPNs to mask their IP address.
While hate crime charges are now federally recognized, hate speech crime laws have been much more difficult to enforce. Calls to violence against specific populations or organizations remain illegal in most places. But spreading rumors that encourage revulsion and violence is not. That is because these rumors, no matter how baseless they are, are expressions of opinion which are protected under the First Amendment. That is the legal gray area where these subterranean internet trolls do the most damage.
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David Freidberg represents the interests of those who have been charged with serious crimes in the Chicago area. Call our Chicago criminal defense lawyers today at (312) 560-7100 and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.