23 Dec 2014

Cursing teen at Mill Pond (Brighton MI) ignites debate on freedom of speech -- "He said he swore under his breath, saying 'This is f------ bulls---.'...Police ticketed him for disorderly conduct. He challenged the ticket in court and lost; he was fined $200."

"This is f------ bulls---."
Those four words landed Colin Andersen in trouble and sparked a debate about freedom of speech in downtown Brighton this summer.
Some residents supported Andersen, who was 19, getting ticketed and fined, but others held a rally to defend public cursing as a First Amendment right to freedom of speech. The situation is one of the Daily Press & Argus' top 10 stories of 2014.
Andersen was hanging out with friends April 11 in a parking lot next to the Mill Pond pavilion and Imagination Station when he became upset that a friend, who had been ticketed for skateboarding, was told by police to leave. He said he swore under his breath, saying "This is f------ bulls---."
He said no children were around or heard him swear.
However, police ticketed him for disorderly conduct. Andersen challenged the ticket in court and lost; he was fined $200.
"What got me to start arguing a little bit, they were asking all of us to leave because he got a ticket," Andersen said. "That's not fair. We're just standing around."
After the Daily Press & Argus covered the matter, protesters held a rally. The "This is f------ bulls---" rally was held in May at the Mill Pond.
Libertarian U.S. House candidate James Weeks II, who was running to replace U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, organized the rally.
"I don't want this to be an everyone-yelling-swear-words rally, but I also don't support censorship," Weeks said.
Legal experts said cursing is allowed in public, even if many believe it's not appropriate.
"Courts across the country have consistently ruled that cursing is speech protected by the First Amendment, regardless if people are within earshot," said Rana Elmir, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
Elmir said cursing is protected even when it occurs in front of women and children.
The organization won a case in 2002 for the "cussing canoeist," which gained widespread coverage.
Brighton resident Laura Hurn said she encouraged Andersen to fight the ticket.
Her son, Cody, is a friend of Andersen and was present on the day he was ticketed for disorderly conduct.
"They can't really do that," Hurn said, adding Andersen has his First Amendment rights.
She said several friends testified that no children were around when Andersen swore.

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