A New York man is suing his town for $25 million, saying it targeted him for his conservative views in making him remove pro-Trump and anti-President Biden flags from his home and his car in violation of local laws.
Michael Wasserman, a Long Island businessman with a home in Long Beach, is an outspoken Republican who regularly flies flags displaying his support for former President Donald Trump, vexing his left-leaning neighbors who are offended by the displays, reads the federal suit, filed Tuesday.
The man regularly faces antagonism from nearby residents who have spat on him, cursed him out, flipped him the bird and threw change at him while expressing their distaste for the flags, the suit alleges.
Following a series of complaints to the town, Long Beach Police Department Chief Ronald Walsh and at least three officers showed up at Wasserman’s house on March 16 asking him to remove the flags because they were in violation of local ordinances, the suit says.
“The LBPD officers on the scene informed Plaintiff that if Plaintiff were flying any other flag besides those supportive of former President Trump and against current President Joe Biden, that the Officers would not be at Plaintiff’s residence,” the complaint, filed in the Eastern District of New York, alleges.
Upon reviewing the ordinance the officer’s cited, Wasserman found he was not in violation, his suit claims. While the law prohibits public signs, it specifically exempts “[t]he flags, emblems or insignia of any nation, governmental subdivisions, religious or fraternal organization or corporation,” the lawsuit states.
On March 21, Wasserman decided to fly a “Trump for 2024 America First” flag, the American Flag and a Thin Blue Line flag in support of police from his vehicle outside of his home. Soon after, an LBPD officer came to his home and said he had “no choice” but to issue a $200 summons for violating the local ordinances, indicating the directive had come from his superiors.
However, Wasserman’s attorney Victor Feraru argues the flags are not in violation of the ordinance because they fall under the exemption. The American flag is the flag of a nation and the other two represent corporations — the Thin Blue Line Foundation and the Save America President Donald J. Trump reelection Campaign.
Further, Feraru conducted a Freedom of Information Law request and found only one other person has been prosecuted under the specific ordinance Wasserman was charged with violating since the law’s inception 1989.
“The enforcement and prosecution of the charges set forth in the March 21, 2021 summons, was in retaliation against Plaintiff for his having exercised his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom to engage in political activity, and for the purpose of deterring Plaintiff and others similarly situation from exercising such rights in the future,” the suit states.
“Plaintiff was singled out as being a staunch conservative.”
The city of Long Beach did not immediately return a request for comment.