Fireworks vendor says rights were violated after being told to take his ‘Karen’ sign down

Fireworks season may be over, but the fight over a sign in Washington, Iowa, isn’t.
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 5:06 AM CDT
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WASHINGTON, Iowa (KCRG) - About a month ago in Washington, Iowa, there was a sign war between the owner of a fireworks tent and a neighbor that ended up in front of the city council.

Fireworks season may be over, but the fight over the sign isn’t.

“I was tearing down my fireworks tent, and I found the “My Neighbor’s a Karen” sign, and it reminded me of when Council Member Steven Gault told me to take down the sign at a council meeting,” said David Robbs, owner of World’s Cheapest Fireworks in Washington.

Robbs originally put the Karen sign on his property after a neighbor called the police on him half a dozen times. He took the sign down after a few hours, but said he put it back up because he felt his right to free speech was violated after council member Gault told him to take it down.

“Within a few hours I had a visit from Councilman Gault,” Robbs said. “He told me he was going to do his damnedest to make sure I don’t get a license to set up this year.”

TV9 reached out to Gault, but he declined an interview. Washington Mayor Jaron Rosien said Robbs called to complain about the discussion he had with Gault after putting the sign-out.

“Our first amendment rights are protected,” Mayor Rosien said. “However, those rights aren’t without consequences.”

Mayor Rosien said the legalization of fireworks hasn’t been a positive for Washington, and not just for short-fused people. The city banned the use of fireworks within city limits last year.

“People with pets lose from them, people who get triggers from explosives lose, and people who have their property damaged lose,” he said. “The straw that broke the camel’s back was when a house caught fire last year.

Mayor Rosien said the city didn’t have control over where Robbs or other fireworks vendors could lease land to sell their products. Robbs said he did plan to reopen in Washington, but his concern over free speech remained.

“My thing was that he used his authority as a council member to specifically ruin a business that wasn’t even part of his ward,” said Robbs.

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