Mans sues for right to flip the bird at police officer

Robert Ekas of Oregon was ticketed for giving the finger to a police officer. Now he is suing the police for the right to flip off the cops.

Man flips police the bird, then sues them


  1. The anchorwoman looks like she’d rather be covering a fashion show for parakeets. Grrrr….must not eyeroll….grrrr.

  2. I’d say the worst problem in America today is that the cops can and do arrest people for looking at them funny… Throw in charges for resisting arrest,* and/or for prostitution* for poor, black, lesbian or trans women and they can destroy someone’s life.

    *No resistance required.

    *No sex work required.

  3. Isn’t flipping the bird considered assault? I’ve heard about someone being arrested for blowing a woman a kiss because it was assault.

    1. no. assault requires a reasonable fear of imminent harm. Saying something offensive falls short of assault. Blowing a kiss isn’t assault but depending on the circumstances, can be a part of a larger pattern of harassment and can be used toward a case against someone within that framework.

      There are some gray area ordinances that go toward “disturbing the peace” that are often used to quell offensive speech but those do not trump the first amendment.
      There is some restrictions that are allowed for “fighting words” but police officers are expected not be trained to not reach to a middle finger with violence so the fighting words doctrine does not apply here as legitimate reason to restrict free speech.

      1. Ok, yeah in the case where the man was charged w assault, he’d become angry at a woman that worked behind a window – like a teller or something. He was being walked out by police when he blew the woman a kiss – and was charged w assault then.

        1. Heck, even firefighters refer to non military/police/emergency workers as civilians. I don’t know why we do that – but it’s official, you are all civilians.

        2. Technically, law enforcement agencies are paramilitary organizations, so I’d like to be called a “paracitizen.”

    1. We pay there wages.they were to protect and serve right ha ha.We civilans suffer enough abuse from the police without any fingers involved.If one of your employees gave you the bird ,what would you do?…..

  4. It’s sad that this is even a case at all. He made a gesture that any child over the age of about 5 knows all too well, the cops responded to his act of speech with frivolous prosecution, harassment and threats.

    Yeah, it’s bad taste and there are plenty of better ways of expressing yourself as an adult citizen, but the idea that the sheriffs in their souped-up mustangs, armed with sidearms and shotguns see some guy flipping the bird as a threat or menace is just nonsense. Good on him.

  5. OMG – just watched the video – what is wrong with that woman”s face? Aliens among us perhaps?

  6. Supreme Court stands by the guy.
    Lewis v. City of New Orleans 1974, City of Houston v. Hill 1987.
    the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers,” Brennan wrote.

    “The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state,” Brennan wrote.

    Brennan determined that the law was not narrowly tailored to prohibit disorderly conduct or fighting words. The court concluded that the ordinance “criminalizes a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech, and accords the police unconstitutional discretion in enforcement.”

  7. Interestingly, this went to court in Benton county, Arkansas four or five years ago. The man was charged with disorderly conduct, and won an innocent verdict! The cop he flipped off was a state trooper (in Arkansas, that means one who sits by the road and runs radar guns. Sheriffs handle 90% of real crimes). That same cop pulled me over a couple of years before this incident and tried to provoke a fight with me, a middle-aged male with a clean driving record. So maybe the judge knew him too?

  8. Well, of course he has the right to do this. And I have the right to stand in front of the police station with a sign that says “Fuck the pigs!” Is is smart? Is it responsible adult behavior? Is it sensible? Is there a reasonably good reason for doing it? Or is it just another example of a so-called grown-up acting on impulse like a spoiled, entitled child?

    But more important than any of that: does this guy own pants?

    1. Who needs pants when you can just tuck a few gray tea towels into your belt.

    2. “But more important than any of that: does this guy own pants?”

      I have not watched the video, and now I am afraid to.

  9. I think the amazing thing about this piece, is that this was the local news’s “TOP STORY” of the day.

  10. Ok, watched a little more of the video – this guy is an idiot. He was flipping the officers the bird just to ‘challenge authority?’ He claims it was civil dissent but what was his dissension about -the right to flip off the police? If he Really wanted to cause problems for law enforcement he could just buy a prepaid cell phone and call in fake crime reports. Wait ’til they’ve just settled down at Dunkin Donuts for a snack and call in a ‘shots fired’ in their district. Of course that would be wrong and I’d never, ever suggest someone actually do that.

    1. Yay! Call XKCD! As Tom Hale points out, it’s a tautological lawsuit!

      He claims it was civil dissent but what was his dissension about -the right to flip off the police?

      Whee …

  11. Absolute bullshit. You have every right to hate:

    – Black Jelly Beans
    – The Dallas Cowboys
    – Country Music
    – Police Officers

    Furthermore, you should have inalienable rights to display this hate in any non-violent way.

  12. This guy is what the First Amendment is all about. Expressing ideas that are popular doesn’t require legal protection. It’s the unpopular stuff that does.

    Cops have the authority to detain you if they reasonably suspect you’ve committed a crime. We did not give them the authority to detain people who do/say things they don’t like; that’s an authority the police have unlawfully arrogated unto themselves.

  13. Living in Vancouver BC, where the police are often out of line, I hope this gentleman wins his case. He certainly seems well spoken and has an intelligent opinion on the subject, as opposed to someone bringing a frivolous lawsuit against the police.


  14. This will be a better country if and when police officers get in serious trouble for hauling someone in on “Disrespect of Cop” charges.

  15. I see he’s also exercising his right to give the finger to the fashion police as well.

    But I’m with this guy all the way.

  16. Cops DO NOT have any sense of humor. I grew up in a small town — I remember the first traffic light going in, and a sidewalk — town had no sewage system, everyone had septic tanks. There was a county center with a library and a sheriff’s substation which was only used at shift changes. This was about a ten minute walk from home. When I was about 10, in 1960, my 5 year old brother and I walked to the library. We got there just as a deputy’s car pulled up and two deputies got out. I turned around, stuck my thumbs in my ears, wiggled my tongue, kid stuff. The proper response would have been the same. Instead, we got a lecture on how tough a sheriff’s job was, how dangerous, how they deserve respect.

    This was 1960, a small town, two kids returning library books. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate they you don’t get respect for being an asshat.

    As for “civilian”, this is a pet peeve of mine. It has long since turned into the equivalent of “layman” with the advantage of being gender neutral. EVERYONE uses civilian to mean others not in the profession, whatever that may be. Every time I hear or see the complaint that cops are civilians too, I want to wretch at politically correct grammar nazis who haven’t got a clue about real English. And yes, nazis is lower case, being a generic term, just like kleenex and civilians. If you can understand what someone said or wrote, then they said or wrote it well enough, and your complaints are only fit for lining kitty litter boxes.

    1. So, you didn’t like law enforcement officers even when you was ten?

      And, not all ‘cops’ are alike – I’m sure plenty of them have a good sense of humor – I know several myself.

  17. The guy was clearly trying to provoke the cops in order to get attention – he was far too well prepared and far too articulate (which points to a certain degree of intelligence) to not have seen this coming. I certainly agree with his “message”, but it seems clear to me this guy has a bone to pick.

  18. I was arrested during the height of the VietNam war for flipping off a cop. I was riding my bike to a swimming hole and a car honked at me to get out of the way. I flipped them off. A cop car was behind that car. I ended going to jail, being tied to a chair with shackles and having my hair (very long in those days) and beard cut off with a straight razor. A small group of cops watched and made comments to the effect that if I moved my throat would end up being cut etc. The judge fined me 150$, alot of money then, so I sat out my sentence in jail for 2 or 3 days. Upon freedom I went directly to the ACLU, this was 1970, and they threatened to sue the Bellingham police on sex discrimination, as they only cut the hair of men (and in particular, hippy men) and not women on booking. The city changed their policy as a result. But I still remember how crude and malicous the cops were. The irony of it was I ended up getting drafted a month or so later.

    1. 12/08 I flipped a Seattle PD officer the bird for asking me to put out my cigarette in public. I was within my rights far enough away from business door etc. His authority was clearly challenged and he cuffed me and put me on the hood of his car for 45 minutes in the rain. He then took an old receipt from my wallet threw it on the ground and wrote me a littering ticket. His XO showed up randomly and asked him “what the f*&K are you doing?” and they let me go. I paid the ticket but I complained to the civilian review board and nothing happened to him and I had to pay my ticket.

  19. My problem with this is I get the feeling the guy was only going around flipping off cops so that they’d do something about it and he could in turn sue them.

    I mean once, fine, twice, okay what the hell, but three times? I don’t think he was going to give up until the cops gave in. They shouldn’t have, but if I was being harassed by this jackass I’d probably end up confronting him too.

    I vehemently defend freedom of speech and I’m going to exercise it right now by calling this guy a prick who needs to let cops do their job instead of wasting their time on his bullshit.

    1. NYT v. Sullivan isn’t really applicable here. That’s about a specific type of malice necessary for a successful claim of defamation against the press.

      I’d fire up westlaw and look up a better case for you but I’m lazy, so I will just sit here and swill beer.

  20. any cop who can’t control their fucking temper should be fired. no fucking question. if they get to carry guns, they do NOT get to let their emotions get the better of them.

    the irony? a lot of cops (easily most, in my experience) become cops so their dickish behavior will be legitimized.

    i’m fully with this guy. cops are constantly acting overbearing and intimidating. give em the fucking finger, and refuse to be afraid.

    and the apologists are fucking creepy. not naming any names.

    1. “i’m fully with this guy. cops are constantly acting overbearing and intimidating. give em the fucking finger, and refuse to be afraid.”
      So you’re saying give the finger to police officers just because they’re police officers? That doesn’t sound very rational imo.
      Also, you use the F-word way too much – if you’d used it just once it would have added emphasis to what you’re saying.

  21. I watch KATU enough to know that the reporter’s face always looks like that. Too much botox maybe?

    Also, things are pretty heated around Portland right now concerning the police, so I’m not surprised that it was a lead story.

  22. Earlier stories included quotes from Ekas to the effect that he is objecting to how often the Portland Police and Clackamas County Deputies kill unarmed people. I don’t know if it made the national news, but the Portland Police recently shot an unarmed black man in the back as he ran away from the cops who had just shot him 8 times with beanbags from a shotgun. They opened fire with the shotgun-beanbags because he was standing still in the middle of the parking lot with his hands on the back of his head instead of with his arms straight over his head as they had instructed him to do. He probably couldn’t hear the instructions over the barking attack dog. Also, recently the James Chasse case from last year was in the news again, so that would be fresh in Ekas’ mind.

  23. he has the right to flip the bird or say whatever he wants. he just needs to recognize there will be consequences for doing so.

  24. Man. Cops. People. Sheesh.

    Wait . . . cops are people too!

    Quick, print a bumper sticker!

  25. Given my understanding of Oregon Police, it seems fairly unlikely he’ll live long enough for the case to go to trial anyway.

  26. Yakov Smirnoff used to make this joke:

    In Russia is freedom of speech.
    In America is also freedom after speech.

    Heh. Guess the police aren’t big fans.

  27. I really like that this guy is fighting for a world where people can give cops the finger and not be scared. I would be scared of giving a cop the finger, because I’d expect retaliation. I had a friend arrested for saying “bullshit” to a cop. Being afraid of using such a basic freedom is really lame. I applaud this man.

  28. The one thing that’s really missing from this story for me is what the guy’s tickets were. Was he pulled over and issued a total bullshit citation for breach of peace? Or was he given a ticket for something clearly spurious, like not signaling a lane change? Or was he given a ticket for expired tabs? I can see all of the above as being possible, and the last scenario makes it a lot different in my view. The first two makes him the victim, but the last one makes it kind of funny to me.

    1. I think that we can reasonably guess that he didn’t have both hands on the wheel.

  29. pfff. I’da tasered him up real good, then planted some meth on him. ignorant fool deserved it.

  30. Considering the caliber of Boing-Boing readers, I’m shocked at the number of blanket “COPS ARE BAD AHHH” statements floating around. One bad experience seems to have turned them all into pigs. Chill out, guys.

    As far as this case, I hope this guy has to pay the fine. There are far more important battles to be fought than the one over the right to flip off cops. He’s wasting everyone’s time.

    1. It’s because we don’t hold the police to the same level as we hold the grocery store clerk, the truck driver, the construction worker or even the lawyer.

      The police, along with the military and everyone else who is carrying a gun and acting as keepers of the law and/or the peace, are held to VERY HIGH STANDARDS. They must ALWAYS act professionally and responsibly. Even a single instance of failure to meet these standards is a significant breach of trust because, as I said, they have guns and they have the recognized right to fine people, lock people away and/or shoot them if they think any of those options are correct.

      Being a police officer is a tough job – very stressful. That’s why tough people with thick skins need to be doing it, not pansies who are threatened by cameras, gestures, rude words or anything else that is non-violent. That’s how it has to be if they are allowed to have guns, arrest and/or fine people.

  31. Only in America would a newscast have to mask out a raised finger. US TV must have the most censorship of any western country. Come to Canada and watch “Trailer Park Boys”!

    1. TPB is uncensored because it’s on Showcase. Any other channel and it would be half the length and blurry.

  32. Exactly. If a cop gives you the finger – that’s unprofessional. It’s not against the law.

    And if they do it off duty (without identifying themselves as a police officer) then it’s fine. Well, it’s rude and not very nice. But it’s not illegal.

    So, I support this guy. Rude prick that he is.

  33. If this is allowed, would he then want the freedom to walk up to a random police office and say ‘I think you’re a c—‘? At what point does it become okay to be offensive just because you feel like doing it? I have no problem with bad language or offensive gestures if you’re actively engaged in a conversation or dispute with someone, but he admits he wasn’t reacting to a situation, he was just waving the finger at deputies as they drove down the street. If he doesn’t want his day spoiled with a ticket, he shouldn’t spoil someone else’s day, someone who was simply going about his business, with a middle finger.

    1. I think it become ok when they ratified the constitution. The fact that people make so many blanket anti-police statements should say something about the pervasive experience with police. People don’t feel like police are here to protect them, because in their real life experience they are not protected, but harassed. It’s obviously a systemic problem not pertaining to any one police officer.

  34. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t help but find it hilarious that the (literally) offending digit was blacked out in the newsreel. In case they inadvertently offend or outrage, you know…

  35. This issue hit the SCOTUS in the 70’s and the right to flip the bird to police was upheld.

    Nice to see we’re going round and round again.

  36. It’s illegal, technically, to shout obscenities or make obvious obscene gestures at ordinary folks just going about their business, too. It’s a kind of disorderly conduct in public: and is a legal defense if you get smacked around for it, too – fighting-words, provocation, makes you the thrower of the first punch, in a sense. It may not fully excuse the guy who knocks you down, but it does reduce his culpability, both civil and criminal.

    Obscene gestures in public might be meant for the cop, but they are PUBLIC and this guy even admits he wants others to “watch and learn” He’s disturbing the peace and his speech isn’t protected.

  37. As things keep moving more towards the “police state” atmosphere, the relationship between police officers and the rest of the population will continue to grow more hostile. Oddly enough, this will hinder the police in performing their actual duties, as they will receive less and less voluntary cooperation from everyone, and instead will be treated with distrust and fear. The individual in the article is trying, in a specific way, to turn back the trend ever so slightly, by reminding everyone that this particular bit of “police state” is not authorized by the law. When citizens have a little less fear of arrest from “offending” a police officer by word or gesture, they might be more willing to speak to one, assist one, volunteer information, or do something other than meekly cower or run in fear of their life from someone armed and authorized to treat them with arrest or deadly force at his or her whim.

    The police state does not benefit society. It does not even benefit the police. Fighting it is honorable, even if the weapon employed in the fight is a childish gesture.

  38. Hell yes. The guy might seem off- but I like his bent. You can think it’s crass all you folks want, but really, haven’t there been times where you just wanted to tell an officer to go **** themselves?

    Are you REALLY going to sit here and tell me you’ve never felt that way, no matter what level of education and moral compass you have? I hope not. Everyone has felt that way at one time or another, either justified or not. The justification here is not the issue- it’s like the guy says- it’s about your right to freely express yourself to the police in a non-threatening way.

    If you’re going to tell me a middle finger is somehow physically or mentally “threatening” to you, you’re a deluded prude that’s never gotten mad. There are plenty of good cops, but there are plenty who are ***holes as well. Some who go out of their way to arraign people on stupid, vapid charges. BBers, think all the busy-body cops denying photographers the right to photograph things publicly due to “terrerizm”, especially in light of public-domain laws.

    Remember- free speech isn’t always popular, but when you take away the right to say “&#$%!”, you’ve taken away the right to say “&#$% the police!”. If we pay their salary, we have the right to flip them off. I’d flip off the president of the USA if I felt he deserved it enough, and I’d take him to court to ensure I can.

    And to Blaine • #25 • 18:05 on Wed, Mar. 3 • Reply

    Absolute bullshit. You have every right to hate:

    – Country Music
    – Police Officers

    Furthermore, you should have inalienable rights to display this hate in any non-violent way.


  39. The cops are not our mom and dad. Their role in society is not to teach us manners and punish us when we act bratty, nor are they to be respected as infallible guardians.

    If you feel that police should have such a pseudo-parental role, you may a facist.

  40. I was once threatened with arrest for refusing to provide identification (well, actually it’s happened more than once) Here’s what was happening:

    I was driving home on a boondockish mountain road, and I come around a corner… and there’s a car in the turnout fully on fire, engulfed in flames, and nobody around. So I turned around to go back where I have cell service, called 911, and let em know what was up.

    I parked uphill from the burning car, got out, and walked down to where I could see it. Cops and fire trucks showed up shortly. A cop came up to me and told me to get off the highway, so I reluctantly started back for my car, when all of a sudden he wanted me back down the hill. When I got back he told me to show him my drivers license, to which I replied, whatever for? I am not driving; I am not pulled over. He insisted again, so I told him to ‘get off my nuts’. “What did you say to me!?” – “GET OFF… MY NUUUUUUUUTS!” He then gave me ‘one last chance’ to avoid going to jail. I relented, showed him my shit, and that was that. But good lord did he flip out when I told him to remove himself from on top of my testicles.

  41. This reminds me of a story posted here some time ago about an old man in Provo or Orem Utah who gives the finger to every car or person that passes his house. I live in the area and have heard stories of said person. I guess the cops in his area are thicker skinned than Oregon cops.

    Moral of the story, if you plan on giving cops the finger, make sure you give everyone the finger. Better odds of getting away with it..

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