Woman f-bombs police and gets rewarded $100K compensation
Amy Barnes, a well-known political activist in Marietta, Georgia, had her freedom of speech right violated when she was arrested for yelling curses at police in 2012, according to Cobb County State Judge Melodie Clayton.
"The defendant’s statements, although offensive to this court, clearly constitute political speech,” Clayton wrote in her acquittal of Barnes, cited by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."
The court decision is mainly praised in online comments, and a number draw parallels to the recent lawsuits over police brutality, in which decisions were made in favor of law enforcers.
“She's lucky to be alive. Had a black man done the same thing he would be gunned down in self-defense,” a comment on The Huffington Post reads.
— Aisha, Ph.D. (@DocAisha1) December 12, 2014
Barnes was passing two police officers on her bicycle interrogating a black man in 2012, when she screamed at the group “Cobb police suck” and “F*** the police.”
The police went after the woman, arrested her and held her in detention for around 24 hours, six of them in solitary confinement.
Barnes was charged with disorderly conduct and abuse words "to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
The judge subjected the s- and f-words to linguistic analysis, coming to a conclusion they could not actually prompt an outbreak of violence or unrest.
“In addition, the word “suck”, used as an epithet, is now common enough in modern society that it cannot reasonably provoke a threat of violence,” Judge Clayton wrote. “The defendant’s other statement, “(expletive) the police,” was a fleeting epithet that was insulting and inappropriate, but it did not create an immediate threat and danger of violence.”
The woman was acquitted in 2013 and this week has had a payment of $100,000 authorized in her lawsuit against the county.
Barnes’ attorney, happy with the lawsuit’s outcome described it as “a great vindication of the law for everybody.”
"Ms. Barnes' comments to the police may have been offensive, but no one in the United States of America should be chased down and arrested for their free speech," attorney Cynthia Counts said, according to New York Daily News.