In southeastern Minnesota, the limits on free speech will soon be seen — or not seen, as the case may be — on Red Wing’s Barn Bluff, the western face of which has served for decades as a giant billboard for people who had something to say even though there’s a graffiti ordinance in the city.
Those days are over.
The Red Wing City Council has voted to start enforcing the ordinance.
This became an issue in 2016 when Prince died and someone painted a tribute to him. A resident complained, the city painted over the symbol, and resident Joe Gibart repainted it.
The city later commissioned a survey of residents about the bluff, finding 49 percent said no painting of the bluff should be allowed, 18 percent saying it should be allowed with restrictions (that invites a constitutional challenge), and 23 percent saying it should be allowed, period.
The Heritage Preservation Commission backed the ban, saying the land is sacred to the Dakota people, the land deed calls for no defacing of property, current city law bans graffiti, and the bluff should remain as natural as possible.
Supporters of the graffiti suggest they’ll petition the city to put the question on a ballot for residents to decide.
In the meantime, the new policy goes into effect in November.
If the large American flag, which is currently painted on the bluff, is still there then, it’ll be painted over.