Free Speech Files: Give the Police the Finger, It’s Legal

The Colorado State Highway Patrol drops its case against Shane Boor, who gave a state trooper the middle finger.  Celebrate your free speech by doing the same.

Free Speech Files: Give the Police the Finger, It's Legal

There are simple pleasures in life: one of them is giving people the middle finger.

Holding aloft the middle finger has long been a favorite gesture of mine.  It cuts right through the crap, and let’s the recipient of the symbolic gesture know precisely where they stand in the transmitter’s estimation.

In all truth, I’ve always been amused and fascinated by obscene gestures. This fascination was pushed into overdrive in 4th grade when my student teacher reacted autocratically when myself and several of my friends were volleying the birdie ’round the classroom.  I also quite enjoyed (still do, in fact) the French bras d’honneur, which symbolizes nothing less than fisting.  (Add the middle finger for emphasis if you like.)

We loved it then for the quick symbolic communication of an idea: “Up yours” or “Go fuck yourself.”  And it appears that 35-year-old Colorado resident, Shane Boor, felt the same way and chose to extend the finger to the Colorado State Highway Patrol.

To be precise, Mr. Boor flipped the birdie to a trooper making a routine traffic stop in April.  Boor drove on and when he reached his destination, another officer questioned him and issued a criminal summons. (Point to consider: was it legal for this other officer to track him down?)  The ACLU took up Boor’s legal defense as an issue of free speech.

What was Boor’s motivation?  When asked why he had flipped the bird, Boor told the arresting officer “because you’re thieves and you harass people.”

Give credit to the State Patrol for admitting that the gesture is “protected free speech.”  Or as the ACLU semantically put it:

“Our client engaged in peaceful, silent symbolic expression that is protected by First Amendment…quietly expressed Mr. Boor’s disapproval of what he regarded as unjustified harassment by members of the trooper’s profession… The protection of the Constitution is not limited to speech that is acceptable in polite society… The First Amendment also protects expression that may be disrespectful, coarse or even vulgar.”

And though it might be rude to do so, this affirms that every American has the right to flip off a cop.  While we might not feel the need to flip it at every sighting of a police officer, it’s always nice to know that the ace is in the hole—literally.