Little Falls woman sues city after she's ordered to take down pro-Occupy yard signs

Robin Hensel, a 58-year-old grandmother, filed a lawsuit this week against the city of Little Falls alleging the city is unfairly enforcing its yard-sign ordinance because it disagrees with her political views.

Last fall, the city received a complaint about the pro-Occupy, anti-Republican yard signs in Hensel's yard. The city's complaint-driven, yard-sign ordinance forbids residents from having numerous political signs in their yard.

In February, to retaliate, Hensel pointed out that a number of other signs around the city -- including a prominent "We Support Our Troops" banner on a bank downtown that requires but hadn't received approval by the city's historic preservation commission -- also violated city ordinance. In her federal lawsuit, she alleges the city is selectively enforcing its ordinance and violating her constitutional right to free speech.

Hensel has some high-powered attorneys in her corner -- she's being represented by Paladin Law's Larry Frost and former Reagan Administration justice department official Bruce Fein.

Says the lawsuit:

Robin Hensel
Robin Hensel
The city of Little Falls has no excuse in law for wrongfully harassing a 58-year-old grandmother because she colorfully expressed an unpopular viewpoint on her own property. And that is exactly what the defendant city did. Indeed, at every turn, the defendants brandished their government authority to suppress or burden the plaintiff's viewpoints because of hostility to their ideas and to facilitate and promote viewpoints they found agreeable.

Frost, in an interview with the Brainerd Dispatch, said he doesn't agree with Hensel's viewpoints, "but I agree in the right of free speech."

He added that the city "has no reason why they should limit the political points of view. Little Falls is so far out in left field that you can't see them from home plate."

Hensel alleges the city selectively enforced its ordinance in tolerating this banner.
Hensel alleges the city selectively enforced its ordinance in tolerating this banner.

Hensel claims she received death threats after she complained about the "We Support Our Troops" banner. Little Falls is located near Camp Ripley, the largest military base in Minnesota, and many of the residents have military connections. Hensel said she decided to retire as a foster grandmother after receiving a threat that "the children in your home will not be safe."

Little Falls officials, for their part, have refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Hensel is seeking a judgment declaring the city ordinance unconstitutional, and damages for violations of her First Amendment rights.

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