A struggle for gun rights has morphed into a fight for free speech in Hamburg, after the town cited a Clarice Drive man with a zoning violation for his anti-SAFE Act sign.
E. Scott Zawierucha put the banner up on his fence that faces busy South Park Avenue.
“NY IS NOT S.A.F.E.!! STOP CUOMO – PRESERVE YOUR RIGHTS!!” says the sign, referring to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s passage of the NY SAFE Act gun legislation.
There are anti-SAFE Act signs throughout the town, but Zawierucha will be in Town Court today to face the charge of the illegal sign.
In addition to the First Amendment and Second Amendment issues, he has questions about the role of local politics surrounding the sign.
Supervising Code Enforcement Officer Kurt Allen told the Town Board last month that Scott Zawierucha was not being targeted for his political views, but because the sign is located on a fence.
“I am not taking this down. I have been targeted,” Zawierucha said. “I’ve had nothing but positive feedback from people.”
Zawierucha said he first heard from the town last October, when he had a large sign on the fence in support of Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard, saying “Sheriff Howard fighting for your rights.”
He was sent a notice objecting to the sign and then went to see Supervisor Steven Walters, he said. He said the supervisor told him a couple of days later that the sign could stay up as a First Amendment issue.
He heard nothing until Jan. 14, when he received a notice telling him to remove the sign or he would be taken to court. He took the sign down – and put up the anti-Cuomo sign. The summons came in early February, citing the town code: “No images or language shall be painted, affixed to the outward side of any fence or directed at neighboring properties for any reason.”
Zawierucha finds it curious that the notice this year was sent Jan. 14, the day after the Town Board reorganized and power shifted from the Republicans to the Democrats. At the reorganization, the majority voted, 2-1, to remove his brother, Police Detective Sgt. Glenn Zawierucha, as coordinator and member of the town’s Emergency Management Team.
But Zawierucha is adamant that he has the right to post the sign, and he has garnered many supporters who are expected in court today.
“It in no way causes a problem for anyone,” he said of the sign. “It’s a matter of the First Amendment.”
He will be defended by Buffalo attorney James Ostrowski.