Greek flag is visual pollution

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:

  1. Is a flag a sign? Should the striped pattern of the Greek flag be treated no differently than a Viagra advertisement?
  2. 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?

Antonopoulos lost on both counts. The judge’s summation is telling:

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.

2 thoughts on “Greek flag is visual pollution

  1. Carlos

    The judge is a tool (legally speaking of course), since he overlooked the single most important piece of evidence in this case. The fact of the matter is that since Pierrefonds allows itself to become a veritable shantytown of tempo car shelters every winter they actually have no right to tell anyone what’s pretty or not.

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  2. Denis Canuel

    While I’m not going to discuss about that matter (I couldn’t care less about seeing a flag or a Viagra ad on a garage door), I know for sure that the city of Montreal must approve the color of bricks used in any constructions/renovation in order to keep houses “Montreal-like”. I guess the judge kept that in mind.

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