Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls posted an image of a pickup truck with a profane anti-Trump message on his Facebook page Wednesday. A sticker on the back window of the truck reads “F**k Trump and f**k you for voting for him.” The Sheriff said he’d received complaints and asked the owner to come forward so he could discuss the sticker with them. Sheriff Nehls request quickly went viral with the ACLU and others criticizing him for not respecting the First Amendment. The Houston Chronicle reports:
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said he discussed with a local prosecutor the possibility of a disorderly conduct charge — a misdemeanor — against the driver.
But at a news conference later Wednesday, Nehls seemed to back down from that idea, saying he supports freedom of speech and acknowledging a 1971 Supreme Court case that overturned the conviction of a man for disturbing the peace for wearing a jacket with an expletive as part of an effort to protest the military draft and the Vietnam War.
“We have not threatened anybody with arrest. We have not written any citations,” Nehls said. “But I think now it would be a good time to have meaningful dialogue with that person and express the concerns out there regarding the language on the truck.”…
The sheriff said he wants to avoid a situation where somebody could take offense to the sign on the truck, possibly leading to a confrontation.
As it happens, the driver of the truck was arrested on an outstanding warrant. She says she and her husband created the message after the election consider it an exercise of free speech:
Karen Fonseca said the truck belongs to her husband but that she often drives it. They had the sticker made and added it to the window after the billionaire real estate magnate and reality TV star was sworn into office.The sticker has attracted attention many times before, Fonseca said. People shake their head. They take photos of it. Officers have pulled her over but failed to find a reason for writing a ticket…
“It’s not to cause hate or animosity,” said Fonseca, 46. “It’s just our freedom of speech and we’re exercising it.”
In this case, Fonseca is clearly within her legal rights. The message on the truck is definitely offensive, especially to people who voted for Trump, but asking Fonseca to alter or remove it because someone might take offense is another example of the heckler’s veto in action. People threatening violence don’t get to determine what other people can say. That’s true on college campuses and it’s certainly true in Fort Bend County, Texas. In fact, this could be used as a teaching moment for far-left group who claim “hate speech” is not protected by the First Amendment.
The Sheriff has since removed his Facebook post but only after it went viral.