Protesters Swear They Have a Right to Free Speech

May 30, 2014 6:03pm
AP colin andersen swearing jtm 140530 16x9 608 Protesters Swear They Have a Right to Free Speech

Colin Andersen shows the ticket he received for swearing in public in downtown Brighton, Mich., May 13, 2014. Gillis Benedict/Livingston County Daily Press & Argus/AP Photo

Cursing -  even cursing near a children’s playground – is not a crime, free speech activists in Michigan insist, and they intend to demonstrate this weekend to protest a $200 fine given to a teenager for muttering expletives.

“If the officers are going to make this a common practice, a lot of us would be fined,” Rana Elmir, deputy director of ACLU of Michigan, told ABC News today.

James Week II,  Libertarian candidate for Congress, intends to demonstrate Saturday, to support the teenager, Colin Andersen, who told ABC affiliate WXYZ that he was hanging out with a group of friends near a playground in Brighton, Mich., on April 11. According to Andersen, one of his friends was ticketed for skate boarding, which is prohibited.

Andersen cursed under his breath as he walked away. The officer overheard the profanity and wrote Andersen a ticket, charging him with disorderly conduct.

The protest will be held at the playground where Andersen was fined and Weeks believes dozens of people, including Andersen, will show up.

“Over 110 people have RSVPed our event on Facebook,” he said. “I expect about half would show up.”

Weeks said this is just another case of police officers abusing their power.

“When Andersen asked the police officer why he was kicked out of the park, the police refused to give him a reason,” Weeks said. “So he expressed his dissatisfaction, and that’s why he was fined. Clearly, this is a violation of our right to free speech. This kind of stuff needs to be ended.”

Elmir said police use laws such as disorderly conduct to deal with people who are annoying.

“This is a situation where the disorderly conduct charge is completely unwarranted. It’s not being used to address the conduct. It’s used to censor protected speech,” Elmir said.

Brighton police defended the citation issued to Andersen.

“It’s a violation of the city ordinance for language or conduct that causes a breach of the peace,” Brighton Police Chief told ABC News’ affiliate WXYZ. “We do get complaints about teenagers that hang out there, that misbehave, that type of thing, so we are alert to that and pay a lot of attention to that.”

“I think teenagers are often unfairly targeted and profiled by the police,” Andersen said. “Had it been a full-grown adult, I doubt the police would have done anything.”

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