A photo posted on social media by a Houston-area sheriff Wednesday showing a truck sticker with an expletive directed toward President Donald Trump has gone viral. The law enforcement official said he is concerned the driver of a truck displaying such a message against Trump and those who voted for him might lead to a situation that could result in confrontations with people offended by the sign.
In a Facebook post, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls said the owner of a truck with a “F–k Trump and F–k you for voting for him” sticker could violate a disorderly conduct law and that he discussed with a local prosecutor the possibility of a charge — a misdemeanor — against the driver. The post also included a photo of the white pickup truck with the bumper sticker.
“If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you. Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it,” the Facebook post read Wednesday.
The sheriff also posted a photo of a portion of the Texas law for “Disorderly Conduct” in the comments section of the post “for the point of discussion.” The photo in the comment section read:
“A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly:
“(1) Uses abusive, indecent, profane or vulgar language in a public place, and the language by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace;
“(2) makes an offensive gesture or display in a public place, and the gesture or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
The Facebook post was shared over 7,000 times and had more than 14,000 comments and over 8,000 likes. Some commenters on the post said the owner of the truck was well within his or her First Amendment rights, while others disagreed saying that the language used was profane and offensive.
“I’m glad to see our government officials are concentrating on what’s important,” one comment said.
“It is important to respond to calls from residents, yes. Glad we agree on that,” Nehls replied to that.
Comments on Nehls’ Facebook post were varied while some supported his message, others defended freedom of speech or said the sheriff’s department should focus on other high-profile crimes in the community. Several Twitter users also reacted to his post.
The ACLU, the civil rights advocacy group, said on Twitter that it supported the owner of the truck.
“.@SheriffTNehls, you can’t prosecute speech just because it has the word “f–k” in it. (And the owner of the truck should feel free to contact @ACLUTx.) #ConstitutionalLaw101 #FreeSpeech,” the tweet from ACLU Texas read.
Following severe backlash and numerous reactions on social media, at a news conference later Wednesday, Nehls seemed to back down from the idea of pressing charges on the driver, saying he supports freedom of speech. He also acknowledged a 1971 Supreme Court case that overturned the conviction of a man, who had been accused of disturbing the peace for donning 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,” according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Authorities said they want to keep the driver’s identity private at the news conference, but they know who the driver is and added they haven’t spoken to the individual yet.
ABC affiliate KSAT’s sister station, KPRC2, spoke with the driver of the truck.
“I thought the whole thing was totally crazy. It’s been on there for such a long time and we have so much positive out of it – more positive that outweighs the negative,” the driver reportedly said.