A 36-year-old man is facing hate crime charges after writing a racial slur on a public CTA sign. While this may seem like it falls under the banner of free speech, and there are those who want it to fall under the banner of free speech, defacing anything that does not belong to you is considered a property crime in every state in the country. Further, the law makes room to criminalize speech that is used purely for the sake of intimidation and/or falls under the banner of civil rights protections. In this case, defacing a public sign for the purpose of intimidating people of color, people who practice other religions, or gender non-conforming people is a crime in Illinois and under federal law.
Police observed the man using a Sharpie to write something on the sign. According to the allegations, the man wrote “Black line” and then added a racial slur, according to police.
Typically, in a situation like this, the police would report what the racial slur was. In this case, they have not, but we can guess. It then becomes a matter of proving that the individual did indeed use a racial slur or was likely to complete a racial slur if given a chance. However, if police interrupted him in the middle of writing the racial slur, then he may still have a viable defense to the hate crime charges.