America is a nation of freedom. The First Amendment protects its citizens and their freedom of speech.
Overview of the First Amendment: The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion and freedom of expression from government interference. It prohibits any laws that establish a national religion, impede the free exercise of religion, abridge the freedom of speech, infringe upon the freedom of the press, interfere with the right to peaceably assemble, or prohibit citizens from petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances. It was adopted into the Bill of Rights in 1791. The Supreme Court interprets the extent of the protection afforded to these rights. The First Amendment has been interpreted by the Court as applying to the entire federal government even though it is only expressly applicable to Congress. Furthermore, the Court has interpreted the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as protecting the rights in the First Amendment from interference by state governments.
Recently a woman was fired after an image of her on a bicycle, flipping off Trump’s motorcade as they drove past her in Virginia went viral. The woman was identified as Juli Briskman, a 50-year old mother of two who worked in communications for Akima LLC.
The photo went viral and the day following her post she was called into a meeting with their HR department and her employment was terminated on the grounds that her photo was classified as “lewd” and “obscene”, thus violating the company’s social media policy.
Juli pointed out that previously a co-worker was called to a disciplinary hearing under similar circumstances, but after deleting his post, he was allowed to keep his job.
Juli also emphasized that the photograph was not taken during working hours, not on company property, no company logo was anywhere on her person, and no mention of her company in her post. The photograph was also of her back, making her face completely unidentifiable and the motorcade did not contain presidential flags, giving Juli plausible deniability should she decide to challenge her company. Her company’s grounds of termination were also unclear. Though HR dismissed Juli on the grounds of violation of the company’s social media policy, the policy doesn’t clearly state what the company considers to be “lewd” and “obscene”. Both terms are left for personal interpretation.
Despite losing her job, Juli doesn’t regret her actions or her post. “I’m angry about where our country is right now. I am appalled. This was an opportunity for me to say something.”, she tells BBC.
It’s not uncommon for people to protest in the U.S. It’s actually pretty common to see people protesting or making obscene gestures at presidential vehicles as they drive by. Like it or not, it’s part of the beauty of the U.S. First Amendment and its citizens’ freedom of speech.
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