ACLU Protecting The Right to Flip Off Cops for $40K from Taxpayers

Crossposted from STACLU:

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I really just wanted an excuse to use the photo above:

Hackbart says that he was attempting to parallel park in April 2006 when he used his middle finger “to express his frustration” at a driver who pulled behind him and blocked his entry into the space.

Upon hearing a voice instruct him not to “flip off” the driver, he “directed his middle finger at the person speaking,” according to the lawsuit. That person turned out to be Sgt. Brian Elledge of the Pittsburgh Police Department.

Elledge ordered Hackbart to stop his vehicle and cited him for violating a state statute prohibiting the use of obscene language and gestures, the lawsuit alleges.

A district justice found Hackbart guilty of violating the statute, but the district attorney withdrew the charge after the ruling was appealed to a higher court.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued saying Hackbart’s gesture was constitutionally protected speech and merited a lawsuit.

“Courts have interpreted this section of the statute very narrowly to bar only speech and conduct that is truly obscene and thus outside of First Amendment protection,” said Sara Rose, an ACLU attorney.

“The law is clear that using one’s middle finger to express discontent or frustration is expressive conduct that is protected by the First Amendment.”

Rose said ACLU had been getting a number of complaints from Pittsburgh residents that police have be abusing their authority and “infringing on constitutionally protected speech.”

So, you ask, isn’t flipping the bird a free speech right protected by the Constitution? Well, that is debatable. Perhaps it should be argued in court. But is flipping the middle finger to authority really worth $50K with $40K going to attorney fees? I think its a waste of time for the courts and an excuse to line lawyer pockets with taxpayer money. That is where the money will come from if the ACLU win, not the individual sueing.

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