Does the First Amendment Protect a Right to Verbally Abuse the Police?

Editor’s note: This post contains vulgar language that isn’t suitable for children and quite possibly many adults. If you’re an email subscriber, your spam filter probably won’t like it, either. Also, it is quite long.

A federal court of appeals recently ruled in favor of a man who called a group of police officers “bitch ass fucking pigs,” “motherfuckers,” and “dirty rat bastards.” It found that his arrest on disorderly conduct charges was unjustified because “mere epithets” directed at a law enforcement officer, no matter how coarse or profane, do not constitute fighting words and are protected by the First Amendment. Wood v. Eubanks, 25 F.4th 414 (6th Cir. 2022). This raises the question: do police officers really have to put up with this?

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