First Amendment Rights, the Middle Finger and Police Officers

By Kamika Dunlap on March 01, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Robert Ekas said he wanted to make a political statement and a protest of police violence.

So, he opened his sunroof and extended the middle finger to a deputy who was in pursuit.

The deputy eventually stopped Ekas, who was cited for an illegal lane change and improper display of license plates, the Oregon Clackamas County News reports. (He was subsequently acquitted of these charges.)

Giving cops the finger may not be the best way to exercise his right to free speech, but it sure got the point across.

According to the paper, Ekas sued the county sheriff's office. Ekas claims he was harassed and intimidated by the deputy and a sergeant who was dispatched after Ekas requested a supervisor be sent to the scene.

Ekas claims the traffic stops were acts of retaliation that violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

A month later, he gave the finger to another deputy, who detained him but wrote no tickets.

"I did it because I have the right to do it," Ekas said. "We all have that right, and we all need to test it. Otherwise we'll lose it."

According to many legal experts, the middle finger is constitutionally protected speech.

That was the case with David Hackbart. As previously discussed, the Pittsburgh man won a $50,000 settlement after being cited for disorderly conduct for flipping the bird to an officer.

A federal judge said he should not have been cited in the first place. According to the judge, The First Amendment protected Hackbart's one finger salute and the county dropped the charges.

As for Ekas, he said flipping the bird was his response to the police violence in his community.

Though a federal judge in Pennsylvania found that the middle finger was protected speech when Mr. Hackbart fought his disorderly conduct charge, we'll see what the federal court in Oregon will have to say about the protected status of the middle finger in Mr. Ekas' suit against the county.

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