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'Flipping the bird' is protected expression

Posted: November 10, 2008 6:15 p.m.
Updated: November 11, 2008 4:59 a.m.
A disturbing incident took place Oct. 29 at the hands of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Santa Clarita Valley Station.

I was driving home and a large "Yes on 8" demonstration was taking place at the corner of McBean and Magic Mountain parkways.

Emotions were high, and in response to statements from the crowd, I flipped the bird out the window of my car.

Before I knew it, I was pulled over by two sheriff's cars and threatened with arrest for "actions that could incite a riot" and because a "father was irate that his son witnessed the middle finger."

I was not arrested because political speech is a protected form of speech, and flipping the bird is protected under the Supreme Court's decision in Cohen v. California. This is completely different from yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theater. Never mind we are in the middle of a heated debate over the issue. That I was so harassed and scolded because there were children present has me livid.

That father and the other parents who brought their children should have known such a contentious issue is bound to produce words and actions inappropriate for a child to see and/or hear. Shame on them for bringing their children.

It is not up to the Sheriff's Department to protect children from the stupidity of their parents. It is improper for the Sheriff's Department to harass somebody for exercising their First Amendment rights. The deputy who told me I was "inciting a riot" does not understand that context matters.

This was a political event; my gesture was a political gesture.

If hanging an effigy of Sarah Palin is protected speech, if wearing a jacket that says "F__k the draft" inside a courtroom is protected (Cohen v. California) - then my gesture is absolutely protected and I should have been left alone.

How about giving the parents a warning for child endangerment?


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