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It's a bird, it's a cop, it's a lawsuit

By The Associated Press
02.12.07

PITTSBURGH — A man who made an obscene gesture to a police officer had his civil rights violated when he was cited for disorderly conduct, the American Civil Liberties Union claims in a lawsuit filed against the city and the officer.

David Hackbart, of Pittsburgh, made an obscene gesture to a driver who blocked him from backing into a parking spot on April 10, 2006. After hearing someone yelling at him, he made the gesture again, only to realize he directed it at a police officer.

Sgt. Brian Elledge cited Hackbart for using an obscene gesture, according to the ACLU, which filed suit on Feb. 8 in federal court. The charge was ultimately dismissed, but Hackbart and the ACLU said police can't cite people for engaging in protected speech.

"The law is clear that using one's middle finger to express discontent or frustration is expressive conduct that is protected by the First Amendment," said Sara Rose, an ACLU attorney. "The city has an obligation to train its officers to respect citizens' free-speech rights."

Hackbart said he wanted to ensure police would not violate the rights of others.

Pittsburgh police and city officials said they had no comment. The suit seeks unspecified damages.


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