Theodore Antonopoulos, the Pierrefonds resident and soccer fan who painted a Greek flag onto his garage door and then had to fight the city to keep it there, has lost a court battle in which he claimed that a by-law prohibiting signs of that nature violated his right to free expression.
The Pierrefonds bylaw (By-Law 1047 Article 124.2) prohibits “a sign that is painted or reproduced on a building, part of a building or a fence.”
The legal argument centred around two questions:
- Is a flag a sign? Should the striped pattern of the Greek flag be treated no differently than a Viagra advertisement?
- Does it unnecessarily violate our freedoms to prevent someone from painting something on property they own merely because the painting’s content violates your taste?
People cannot paint just what they want on their homes, what about the aesthetic aspect?
What if everyone painted their sports team, their country flag, even Mickey Mouse on their home? If everyone expresses their patriotism, that is visual pollution and not harmonious to the neighbourhood.
Though I think it’s debatable whether a city’s desire for
boring suburban conformity neighbourhood aesthetics should trump the freedom to do as you wish with your property.
But here’s my question: What if he’d just painted stripes on his garage? Or, say, the flag of Libya? Is that a “sign” or just a colour choice? At what point does a painting design on your garage have enough content to allow it to be restricted?
UPDATE (Dec. 10): He’s appealing.