EASTON — Beachgoers headed down Route 50 for the holiday weekend were greeted by someone unexpected: a man occasionally wearing a red “Keep America Great” hat and waving a profanity-laced sign that compared Gov. Larry Hogan to Adolf Hitler.
Shaun Porter, from New Market in Frederick County, Maryland, stood on the side of the highway near the Easton Walgreens and twirled his obscene sign underneath the hot sun. The 41-year-old was protesting coronavirus restrictions: the statewide lockdown in effect since March 30, and a tighter mask mandate issued on July 30 by the governor.
“It’s about time he end the lockdown,” Porter said. “I think it’s absolutely unnecessary.”
Some passing drivers honked approval, while others shouted at Porter to put the obscene sign away.
In red and yellow lettering, the large, rectangular sign declared Hogan a “Nazi” followed by a very vulgar term for a woman and hurled sexual vulgarities at the Maryland governor. An image of Hogan wearing a mask was set before an equals sign, followed by a picture of Hitler.
“This is my deep, heartfelt political belief: I really don’t like him,” Porter said of Hogan. “I’m done with the lockdown, with the mandate to wear a mask. I just don’t agree with any of it.”
Porter said he “does not care about the coronavirus at all,” and cited a recent conspiracy theory that only 9,000 people have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have so far recorded more than 186,173 deaths and more than 6 million cases in the U.S.
“Most of those deaths classified by the CDC were basically old people from nursing homes who would have died from pneumonia or the flu anyway,” Porter said. “I don’t think you should stop healthy people from going on with their lives.”
The Easton Police Department spoke with Porter but did not remove him from the property, as he was on public property and was exercising his First Amendment rights.
“We share your frustrations with this and are just as disappointed as you are,” the department posted on Facebook. “Unfortunately, the sign (including the profanity) is freedom of speech.”
Porter believes the vulgar language is necessary to express his frustration and does not believe the sign is too obscene — even for children.
“My kids took pictures with this,” he said.
Porter has been out protesting six weeks straight, six days a week, across Maryland. A few weeks ago, he was protesting in Annapolis.
Porter said he always felt strongly about personal freedom and the governor’s recent encroachment on that, but he transitioned to street protests after people kept ignoring his Facebook posts. Some posts were even deleted by Facebook, he said.
“I got to the breaking point and I was done with Facebook deleting posts that they don’t like,” he said. “So I started going out directly to the people.”
The Frederick County resident has faced a slew of disputes in the past related to his brazen protesting and sign displays. In 2016, Porter battled with his neighbors over what they said were offensive signs on his property. Porter’s messaging included Confederate flags on his lawn and guns perched near his windows, according to the Frederick-News Post.
One sign read, “No trespassing. Visitors will be shot. Survivors will be shot again.”
He has an open court case from this year for allegedly calling and harassing people, court records show.
Back on Route 50, Porter relaxed near his sign, only occasionally waving or twirling it around. He nodded approval to those who honked and ignored those who shouted at him.
“One out of four people don’t agree with me,” he said of the reactions today. “I don’t care, it’s a free country. My most fun is when people counter-protest me and I act stupid and then we end up hanging out afterwards.”
Porter is a “Trump supporter” but has a general distrust for all politicians. “I’ll be honest with you — most politicians suck.”
His attention was brought to a passing driver on a motorcycle, who rolled to a stop near Porter. The biker looked at him and put his thumb up. “Who is Larry Hogan?” he asked.
Porter just shook his head in disgust and shouted: “Our governor, man!”