Pushed By Democratic Activist, Chino Hills Contemplating Obscenity Ordinance

The late pornographer Larry Flynt once said, “If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, it will protect all of you.”
A Los Angeles-based graphics printing and textile company, Brown & Associates, which markets flags, banners T-shirts and the like is testing that philosophy. In doing so, the company is standing some of the archetypal political axioms and precepts that have applied generally in America over the last century on their heads, reversing long-held notions of conservatism, liberalism and decorum when it comes to free speech.
Brown & Associates sells its wares not out of traditional brick and mortar clothing stores, operating rather as a street vendor, using tables and pop-up canopies at various spots, including sidewalks, parkways, parking lots of existing shopping centers and malls. It is of note that a major line of its wares are clothes emblazoned with political messages, and those messages are not bipartisan. Indeed, they are highly partisan, featuring specifically partisanship of a rather narrow focus, modern Republicanism, or more accurately Trumpism, the ideology that celebrates the approach and philosophy of the immediate past president, the scion of a wealthy real estate developer who became a developer himself and then, thanks to NBC, a reality television star who parlayed his status and high profile into becoming U.S. president, despite being somewhat intellectually challenged as well as insensitive to a considerable degree of cultural, historical and social nuance. Donald Trump’s was a comparatively brief and entirely remarkable political career, given that he had never before held elected office. Nevertheless, during the less than two years he campaigned in earnest to become president and the four years he spent in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, President Trump set himself up, in certain measure improbably, as the standard bearer of the Republican Party, despite having some strong personal differences with many establishment members of the GOP. He remains as the polar opposite of the Democrats, having lost a bitter contest last November 3 against Democrat Joseph Biden, the current president.
Donald Trump still retains a following, and it is this constituency which Brown & Associates is appealing to in trying to make its fortune. The shirts and other items such as hats designed by Brown & Associates principal David Brown are devoted in large measure to demonizing President Biden and lionizing Donald Trump. In some cases, the polemic Brown & Associates engages in is clever or witty. In some cases it is provocative or maybe even offensive. Indeed, though it falls short of the depths plumbed by Larry Flynt in his heyday, it can be downright vulgar and profane.
That Brown & Associates has chosen Chino Hills as one of the locations where it is seeking customers is no accident. California as a whole has grown overwhelmingly Democratic. The Golden State’s governor, attorney general, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, insurance commissioner, superintendent of public schools, both of its U.S. Senators and 42 of its 57 members of Congress are Democrats. Both of the state’s legislative houses, the Assembly and the California Senate, are populated by Democratic supermajorities. Chino Hills is among the last of the Republican bastions in California. While among the city’s 46,910 total voters the 15,888 registered as Republicans, at 33.9 percent, are outnumbered by the city’s 16,821 registered Democrats, at 35.9 percent, statistics show that the city’s Republicans turn out to vote at a rate nearly twice that of the city’s Democrats. This translates to Chino Hills having city council members, as well as county, state and federal representatives who are Republicans rather than Democrats. The Republicans in Chino Hills take their politics far more seriously than do the Democrats, or most of the Democrats, in Chino Hills.
Thus, Brown & Associates has hit pay dirt in San Bernardino County’s southwesternmost city. The company’s employees include a megaphone-bearing man who shouts anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, anti-Biden, and anti-Vice President Kamala Harris slogans, ones often tinged with vulgarisms, which in some measure match the messages on the apparel and banners David Brown’s makeshift sidewalk markets sell. Occasionally, the hawker’s electrically-enhanced pronouncements are tempered with pro-Donald Trump rallying cries, none of which use foul language.
There is some irony to all of this. In years past, it was the so-called liberals who were on the cutting edge of testing the free speech envelope. The Free Speech Movement in the 1960s was headed by Mario Savio, a one-time Democrat who left the Democratic Party because he did not think it progressive enough. When the Republicans cracked down on Savio and those advocating expanding the boundaries of free speech in the 1960s, it was the Democrats who were in favor of suspending and then ultimately dismantling the laws against obscenity, a move intended to allow open public discussion of unpopular ideas and concepts. California’s Democratic politicians rallied to Savio’s defense, arguing that he should be free to speak his mind in whatever way he wanted, be that offensive or vulgar or profane or not. The Democrats were the ones who explored and exploited the possibilities of portraying their Republican rivals as staid and unimaginative defenders of the old order, oftentimes doing so by using verbiage to shock the common consciousness into accepting a more open and liberated embrasure of the sensuousness of humane life. With relatively rare exceptions, such as Tipper Gore, the ex-wife of former Vice President Al Gore, it was the Republicans who bemoaned the erosion of civility and decried the incendiary use of language and the lobbing of verbal Molotov cocktails.
For that reason, it is remarkable that the primary advocate of public decency who is railing against Brown & Associates is Chino Hills’ leading Democrat, Jim Gallagher, who represents Chino Hills on the San Bernardino Democratic Central Committee and is at present that organization’s second vice chair. Gallagher wears his Democratic Party affiliation on his sleeve, having run for the Chino Hills City Council, a nonpartisan office, in 2016 and 2020, campaigning proudly both times as a Democrat, in each instance failing in no small measure because the Republican majority of voters in the city shunned him.
During the 2020 election season, politics sunk to a relatively deplorable level on all sides of the political divide. Now, however, the election is over, with the Democrats having prevailed in the presidential race, and as the victors they are now looking to move on so their party’s leaders can govern. Some Trumpists are not prepared to let them do that, and Brown & Associates is now exploiting that sentiment where it exists and lies within its reach, and is making money doing so. That money-making formula involves continuing to apply the low standards of the last presidential campaign.
Democrats, who in years past characterized the Republicans as prissy and close-minded for objecting to the vulgarization of public discourse when Democrats used indecency and profanity in assailing the likes of Republican icons such as Richard Nixon, Spiro Agnew, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Trump, are now taken aback when their ox, in this case, Joseph Biden, is getting gored.
According to Gallagher, Brown & Associates’ use of foul language in making a political point or trying to make a buck, when done in public in front of women and children and families is not only in poor taste, it should be illegal. He and others who are equally offended have pushed officials at Chino Hills City Hall, where City Manager Ben Montgomery rules the roost, to prepare a city ordinance that would criminalize outdoor displays and commercial enterprises such as those on sidewalks and parking lots which make display of merchandise or materials that are obscene. This would apply to all such activity that is displayed, including banners, flags, signs, pushcarts, tables, stalls, rollups or popups.
Formerly, in California, it was a misdemeanor to utter obscenities, display obscene images, engage in profane or obscene language or use any phraseology in a public setting that could provoke violence. Those laws have been challenged on constitutional grounds and rendered, essentially, moot, inapplicable and unenforceable. There is concern that the ordinance the City of Chino Hills is currently formulating will clash with court rulings preventing the criminalization of the use of profanity and run afoul of a 2019 law that legalized virtually all forms of public vending. The 2019 law does give local governmental authorities a certain leeway in regulating sidewalk vending, such as requiring such entrepreneurs to first obtain a permit, consistent with certain restrictions.
Brown & Associates has obtained such a permit.

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