Saturday 24 August 2019

Expletive-laden anti-Trump message on a pick-up triggers free speech debate in Texas

Sheriff Troy Nehls claimed his force had received “numerous calls regarding the offensive display”.

Pick-up truck.
Pick-up truck.

By PA Reporters

A truck featuring an expletive-laden message aimed at Donald Trump has sparked a free speech debate in Texas.

The white vehicle, which is said to have been spotted a few times on a motorway in Houston, carries a sticker on its back window that says “F*** Trump and f*** you for voting for him.”

The controversy began when Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls posted a now-deleted photo of the truck on Facebook, saying he wanted to speak to the driver and bringing up the idea of a possible disorderly conduct charge.

He wrote: “I have received numerous calls regarding the offensive display on this truck as it is often seen along FM 359.

“If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you.

Pick-up truck.

“Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it.”

The sheriff appeared later to back down from that idea, saying he supports freedom of speech.

Karen Fonseca, who was identified as the owner of the vehicle, spoke to the local media saying the truck belongs to her husband and she often drives it.

Speaking about the message, Fonseca, 46, told the Houston Chronicle: “It’s not to cause hate or animosity. It’s just our freedom of speech and we’re exercising it.”

Legal experts say the driver has a constitutionally protected right to express the message on the truck.

Sheriff Troy E. Nehls, Constitutional Law 101: You can’t ban speech just because it has “f@ck” in it.Hey truck owner, feel free to contact the ACLU of Texas.

Posted by ACLU of Texas on Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Texas division of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an organisation that works to defend individual rights, responded to the sheriff on Facebook, writing: “Constitutional Law 101: You can’t ban speech just because it has ‘f***’ in it. Hey truck owner, feel free to contact the ACLU of Texas.”

ACLU Texas also posted a document from the 1971 case of Cohen v California.

According to the case, the Supreme Court overturned a conviction for the crime of disturbing the peace for wearing a jacket in the courtroom that displayed the phrase ‘F*** the draft’.”

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