Society

Should You be Able to Flip Off the Police?

| by Michael Allen

Wall Street recruiter Robert Bell gave the finger for "one to two seconds" to some police officers who were walking in front of him outside a Greenwich Village bar in New York City.

However, walking behind Bell that August 2011 day was another police officer who saw Bell's gesture and arrested him, according to DNA Info.

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The officer said to Bell "Do you think that's funny?"

Bell was charged with disorderly conduct for making an "obscene gesture," as well as causing public alarm and annoyance.

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He pleaded not guilty in October 2011 and his case was dismissed when the police officer failed to show at the court.

However, Bell is now suing New York City for the right to give the finger, and he may win.

In 2009, David Hackbart, with the help of the ACLU, sued Pittsburgh in federal court for violating his First Amendment rights when a police officer cited him for disorderly conduct after Hackbart gave another motorist the finger.

The judge in the case ruled that the gesture was protected speech under the First Amendment and Hackbart won a $50,000 from a settlement.

At the time, the judge wrote:

Hackbart, in this instance, was expressing his frustration and anger when he gestured with his middle finger to both the driver behind him and to [Sergeant] Elledge. Both gestures are protected expressions under the First Amendment, unless they fall within a narrowly limited category of unprotected speech such as obscene speech or fighting words.