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A Denham Springs woman got a visit from the cops after nearby residents were offended by her somewhat unorthodox Christmas lights display. Homeowner Sarah Henderson intentionally fashioned the lights on her roof (photo, above) to look like a human hand "flipping the bird." Neighbors called police to complain, and Denham Springs Police Corporal Shawn Perkins paid her a visit. Corporal Perkins said the woman told him she put the display as a direct message to her neighbors.
"It was a message to an ongoing dispute she was having with other homeowners on that same street," Perkins told WWL First News. Perkins says he informed Henderson that the display was in violation of obscenity laws and that it must come down, or else. "She agreed that it wasn't worth the possible hassle of fines and legal action," Perkins said. However, the ACLU of Louisiana soon waded into the fray. "The First Amendment expressly, explicitly, makes clear that even things like the raised middle finger are protected speech," says Executive Director Marjorie Esman. Esman sent an open letter to the Denham Springs Police Department "to ensure that no such fines are levied or other penalties imposed if Henderson chooses to reinstall her controversial holiday display." In that letter, Esman wrote: "The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeal, which presides over Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, has specifically commented on the protected expressive nature of a middle finger extended in defiance or protest:
“The thumbed nose, the projected middle finger, the Bronx cheer, the grimace and the smile are all conduct intended to convey a message that is sometimes made even more expressive by its bold freedom from a garb of words.” Davis v. Williams." We asked Denham Springs Police Chief Scott Jones what his plans were if the woman again puts up the display. "Well, I'll approach that when and if it happens," he said.