Giving the president the finger ought not to be a fireable offense, a woman who lost her job after doing just that wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published on Thursday.
Juli Briskman was captured by a White House photographer last summer giving President Donald Trump’s motorcade the finger as it passed by her on her bicycle along a road near Trump’s golf club in suburban Virginia. Briskman’s photo quickly spread across the internet and she was fired days later by her company, which cited “corporate protection” and a social media policy banning obscene or inappropriate content in its decision.
“The First Amendment bars retaliation against me by Trump. But Trump doesn’t need to punish me for my speech if fear of him spurs my employer to do it,” Briskman wrote.
Briskman has filed a lawsuit against her employer, Akima LLC, alleging that its termination of her violated Virginia law because it suppressed her right to free speech in her personal time based on a fear of government retaliation. She likened her firing to the situation of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, a former conference champion who nonetheless has been unable to make his way onto an league roster since Trump turned players who protest during the national anthem – a trend started by Kaepernick – into a national issue.
Protect Democracy, the group helping Briskman file her lawsuit, has struggled to find office space in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Briskman said, because landlords fear government retaliation.
“This sort of behavior is familiar to people living in Egypt, Hungary, Thailand, Turkey and Russia, where the ability to do business increasingly depends on being seen as favorable to the regime,” she wrote. “If Americans can keep their jobs only when they refrain from criticizing the president, then that freedom is lost. And once the freedom to speak is lost, then the rest of our constitutional rights will not be far behind.”