By now, cops in this country must know that citizens have the right to curse them out in public.
After all, numerous court decisions have affirmed that we have the right to swear at cops and flip them off if we so desire. It is protected speech. And numerous police departments have shelled out thousands in needless settlements over these unlawful arrests.
But cops in this country also know they can violate the Constitutional rights of citizens and get away with it as long as they use the appropriate contempt of cop charge, then claim ignorance if they get sued.
And that is exactly what Woodmere Police Sergeant Christopher Colon does in the above video when he arrests street musician Joseph Workman for disorderly conduct for cursing at him on December 16.
Workman, 23, was upset that Colon and another cop were threatening to arrest him for playing his guitar on a public sidewalk. He first called Colon an “asshole” and then a “fucking …..” – an insult he did not complete – which is what triggered Colon into arresting him.
However, for a disorderly conduct charge to stick on the basis of profanity, a person would need to use “fighting words” along with the profanity – which is not the case here.
And that is something Colon should have known given that he appears to be a veteran cop with decades under his belt. He even has a daughter who just joined the force so he is likely well-protected in the department’s friends and family plan. (pictured below).
Colon proves to be a hypocrite when he also curses in public – much louder than Workman ever did – but he probably believes he is exempt from the law he just fabricated.
“Don’t fucking move!” he yells at the non-moving man as he sits on top of him.
In a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime, Workman said he had been playing his guitar about 30 feet from the front door of Starbucks when a security guard called the cops to complain. He said customers were cheering him on.
“They were showing me approval, giving me the thumbs up when all of a sudden, a security officer pulls up and tells me I have to leave,” Workman said.
When the cops arrived, Workman was standing by himself near the sidewalk with his guitar in his hands. Colon accused him of violating a noise ordinance and became angry when Workman did not believe him about the noise ordinance.
Workman, a busker who travels the country with his guitar playing blues and classic rock, has had issues with cops in the past.
He was arrested in August for disorderly conduct while performing during an annual street festival in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland.
He said he recorded the arrest but Cleveland police confiscated his phone and have not returned it.
“The judge dismissed the case that day and ordered them to return the phone but they have not returned it,” he said. “I think they may have destroyed it.”
He also received a $2,000 settlement from the city of Chardon, Ohio who cited him and arrested his brother for playing their music in public.
And he will probably end up receiving a settlement from the village of Woodmere, which has a population of just over 800 people and is one of 14 mayor’s courts in Ohio to show a “distinct patterns of racial bias and profit-oriented policing.”
Watch the shortened edited video above or the full-length unedited video below.