Noblesville sign stirs controversy

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A controversy is brewing in Noblesville over a sign that some are calling racist.

First Amendment or hate? That's the question surrounding the sign in a front yard, which states, "I love Mexican people but they do not belong in the U.S. No Mexicans on my property. C. J. Spence." The sign is advertising firewood for sale.

The sign is posted near 206th St. in Noblesville.

"I thought I need to send them a message," said Spence. "I love people and I enjoy people coming around."

But Spence's neighbors and drivers in the area don't think the sign is so welcoming.

"Our Mexican-American family that have lived in our house for 30 years. I have to drive by this - my kids have to drive by this every day," said Syreeta Bravo. "This is ridiculous. How do you explain that to your kids? You don't, you can't."

When her daughter Pilar saw the words on the sign, "I asked her, 'Was that a joke?' She was like, 'No, I don't think so.' And I felt pretty bad about that."

Driver Kari Bundy said that the sign "just promotes hate. It says it's okay to say things like this and be hateful to other people."

Devon Morgan and his friends wanted to see it for themselves.

"I just wanted to see if it was actually out here; if it hasn't been taken down yet," he said.

"Disappointed to see things said like that," said Lauren Beck.

"Always hear it happening in other towns, but just kind of surprised it could be here," said Zach Beck.

But Spence says the sign does have its fans.

"Lots of people say, 'C.J., I like your sign'," he said.

A passing cyclist yelled, "God bless America!"

Neighbors say Spence is kind and helps others. A pastor says we should show compassion.

But despite the opposition, Spence says the sign is staying put.

"It's not coming down. It's not coming down," he said.

He points to three things - a Mexican leaf cleaning crew dumped all their leaves on his property and twice, he says he's caught what he calls "Mexicans" fishing in his yard.

"They never ask. They never ask," he said.

But is he painting people with too broad a brush and hurting those who didn't hurt him?

"Well, I love Mexican people," he said.

But he doesn't want Mexico's economic problems here.

"It's not my fault," he said.

Indiana Law Professor Robert A. Katz is a First Amendment expert. He doesn't think the sign constitutes hate speech, but instead is just a citizen spouting off.