Georgia Police Made Me Remove a Protest Button Because It Had the Word 'Fuck' on It

As a concerned citizen, I have visited the Georgia capitol many times to talk with our lawmakers about various issues. While recently advocating against a particularly harmful piece of legislation — House Bill 481, which would, if signed into law, effectively ban all abortion in Georgia — I found myself caught up in a debate over my First Amendment right to speak freely.

On March 7, 2019, I was at the capitol to express my concerns regarding the bill. Planned Parenthood was one of the organizations advocating against it, and they provided buttons for advocates to wear. I chose a button that read, “Don’t fuck with us. Don’t fuck without us,” followed by a Planned Parenthood logo.

But I was then approached by a Capitol Police officer and told to remove the button because it contained profanity. I was surprised and taken aback by this suppression of free speech. I was not doing anything disruptive.  I was not chanting, yelling, touching anyone, or blocking anyone’s path. I immediately complied with the officer’s command.

I was dismayed about this order, because this button perfectly exemplified my feelings about this bill. Far too often, a predominantly male legislature makes decisions about women’s health without consulting women. As a result, we are forced to spend time advocating against a clearly unconstitutional ban on abortion that could literally kill women by causing them to seek unsafe abortion care.

At the same time, Georgia has one of the worst maternal death rates in the nation. Black women in Georgia have a maternal death rate more than three times the unacceptably high rate for white women. Lawmakers have consistently failed to implement meaningful solutions. All of this is a direct result of expressly going against the wishes of a majority of Georgia women (“don’t fuck with us”) and ignoring the voices of organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide meaningful health care to women across the country (“don’t fuck without us”).

I have a First Amendment right to express my anger about this bill through peaceful protest, so I sought the help of ACLU of Georgia to allow me to continue expressing my viewpoint. The ACLU of Georgia immediately took this case before a federal district court judge, who ruled it unconstitutional for the Capitol Police to ask protestors to remove buttons simply because the buttons contain profanity.

As a result, I have been able to continue protesting this incredibly harmful piece of legislation by wearing my button while advocating inside of the capitol. It is important that the free speech rights of citizen advocates are upheld every time we face our lawmakers. We have the right, maybe even the obligation, to express our views to our elected officials and hold them accountable when they resist the will of the people.

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Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

"On the revolutionary road being accosted by the police is a small price to pay for your commitment to justice": Ché Guevara circa 1962.

Anonymous

glad you choose the words of an evil dictator that killed people it shows your true intent. have a good day.

Ms. Gloria Anasyrma

He wasn't a dictator. Don't you millennials know anything?

Anonymous

Che Guevara was a physician and his goal was to help people. he was not a dictator

Anonymous

I am pro-choice and definitely agree with your protesting. However, if there were children around I see why the officer would have you remove your button.

Anonymous

if children can read and know what an offensive word means, then the message is effective and no harm is done by wearing the button. The other way around, reactionary, ignorant and stupid children or parents or other adults should not be brought to the capitol. They might be inclined to find an excuse to get violent. Children should not bring guns to the capitol either. But if someone is offended by a button then they can choose not to look at it.

Anonymous

Cohen v California was almost 50 FUCKIN years ago Georgia. GET WITH THE TIMES.

Tyler Barse

With all due respect, why comply? I agree that was an assault on free speech. And I also know that the only way to challenge the police is in the courts. Civil Disobedience and being arrested for it would have furthered these aims. It wasn't obscene, it wasn't inciting imminent lawless action. It was protest speech.

Is there risk of disbarment? Even then that sounds a bit excessive, peaceful protest is a right we all should enjoy.

Steve

Children shouldn't have to be shielded from you pin in a government building that my tax dollars pay for. If you want to express your opinion, do it somewhere where that language is appropriate. This isn't suppression. This is educating the ignorant about manners.

Anonymous

Words have only the power and meaning in which you and only you give them. You teach your kids words are wrong because you were taught they were. Words are only given power and considered wrong when you give them that power and meaning. A words is just a bunch of sound given a meaning by you and others and public that all go together to help communicate with each other.

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