Patriotic sign returns

By Ed Brock

As Lee Moore was replanting his "Support Our Troops" sign in front of his Jonesboro insurance office at least three people honked their horns and waved in support as they drove past.

One man stopped to say "Nice sign."

"Every time you're out here if you're around, the sign people are going to do that," Moore said.

The sign, which reads "Support Our Troops or Leave," came down on Feb. 26, the day Moore pleaded "nolo contendere," or no contest, to a citation from the city that said the sign violated the city code.

Moore and his son Robbie Moore decided to sue the city in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, but just before the first hearing was to be held on the suit on Thursday, attorneys for the city offered a deal.

"They wanted to say we could leave it up for a year," Lee Moore said. "Then they wanted us to agree not to sue the city of Jonesboro again."

But the Moores turned down that agreement, so by the end of the negotiations the city had agreed to allow them to put the sign up permanently. The city also agreed to let them put up another sign on their property to match the first, and they paid Moore's attorney's fee and the fine he had paid to the city, a total of almost $5,000.

"It wasn't the sign. It was the principle of the whole thing," said Moore, a Vietnam War era veteran. "It was disheartening to me as a veteran that one of the things I was willing to fight and die for, freedom of speech, was going to be taken from me by some municipality."

In their lawsuit, the Moores claimed the city's sign ordinance was unconstitutional because it differentiates between types of political signs. Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker said previously that the city had no problem with the Moores' sign so long as it met with the code.

Walker did not return several phone calls seeking comment on the settlement.

Rather than view the settlement as a victory over the city, the Moores say they see it as a victory for free speech.

"We just always thought it was a fight for our first amendment rights," Robbie Moore said. "We may put ?God Bless America' on the other sign, who knows."

Former Jonesboro police Assistant Chief Freeman Poole had written a letter to the News Daily in support of the Moores.

"I'm glad to see it up. I think they should put another one up," said Poole who is also a veteran. "I didn't run off to Canada when my country called me."