Protecting your right to get salty with the state
It’s every American’s right to protest their government, criticize its officials, and express contempt for its agents.
And because some agents of the state don’t (or won’t) understand that right, a federal appeals court just issued a ruling reminding them of it:
Sheriff’s deputies in Ohio didn’t have probable cause to arrest a man for hurling vulgarities at them and wearing a t-shirt that said “fuck the police,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled Tuesday.
The Sixth Circuit found Michael Wood had a First Amendment right to cuss out a gaggle of deputies who removed him from a county fair in 2016 after someone called 911 to complain about his shirt. The deputies also are not entitled to qualified immunity from Wood’s suit, the Sixth Circuit ruled, because Wood’s right to be free from arrest was clearly established by a long line of court opinions protecting obscene language directed at authorities.
You don’t have to agree with the content of the speech…but the right to say it – and the court rulings backing it up – are pretty clear:
There’s a wide body of federal case law upholding the First Amendment right to flip off or otherwise offend police officers. In 1987, the Supreme Court struck down a Houston ordinance prohibiting verbal abuse of police officers, declaring that “the freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”
And that’s still true today. Tomorrow? Well…