Apparently, the old “you kids get off’a my lawn” strategy has stopped working in Middleborough, so city officials are looking for stronger stuff to deal with “crowds of unruly teenagers who gathered downtown at night.” Their solution: “give police the opportunity to hand out $20 tickets for using profanity in public.” Yeah, that’ll do it.
Reaction in Middleborough has ranged from the droll to the hilariously ironic. From the linked Globe story:
On the downtown drag of Centre Street the following afternoon, some of the youths who hang there, and who are a target of the ordinance, punctuated their feelings with vehement oaths. One thought it was [expletive]. Another thought it was [expletive expletive]. A car drove by and a young woman yelled out the window, “Is it illegal to say [expletive]?” It was a fair question, and one whose answer, according to freedom of speech specialists, is probably no….
[A] 21-year-old man with dreadlocks named Jeremy Haber pulled up in a beat-up Mazda Miata convertible. He had another question.
“A cop pulled me over and called me a [expletive] [expletive] and told me I’m going to do nothing with my life,” he said. “Do I get $40 for that?”
Mr. Haber’s amusing story points out the absurdity of this kind of law. Aside from being plainly unconstitutional on its face (any court worth its salt will quickly invalidate Middleborough’s new plan to manage its unruly teenagers), it’s also painfully obvious that laws like this are used simply to harass people who irritate the police – hardly a compelling state interest justifying the suppression of protected speech. I seriously doubt that any cop is going to ticket his colleague for calling Mr. Haber a [expletive] [expletive], but you can be sure that if Mr. Haber responded in kind, he’d get a ticket, and probably a lot worse.
On the flip, a non-work safe message from BMG regarding this kind of misguided thinking. Middleborough’s profanity squad can forward the ticket to my attention.
Image via Shutterstock.