A profane anti-Trump message on the rear window of a Houston-area truck has Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls seeing red.
The sheriff took to social media on Wednesday by posting a photo of the offensive truck on Facebook, seeking to find the owner and threatening to bring disorderly conduct charges against them.
Nehls told the Houston Chronicle that he had received calls, texts and emails in recent days from people who took offense at the message on the truck, which read in bold, white lettering: “F— TRUMP AND F— YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.”
The sheriff, a Republican who is weighing a bid for Congress, shared a photo on his official Facebook page (see below) and wrote, “I have received numerous calls regarding the offensive display on this truck as it is often seen along FM 359. If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you.”
It turns out that Karen Fonseca, who used to work for Nehls at the county jail, stepped up to identify herself as the driver of the truck. She explained that the vehicle belongs to her husband but she often drives it. They had the sticker made and added it to the window after Trump was sworn into office.
Fonseca acknowledged that the truck has been attracting plenty of attention. She said she’s been pulled over by police, but they couldn’t find a reason to write her a ticket.
“It’s not to cause hate or animosity,” said Fonseca, 46. “It’s just our freedom of speech and we’re exercising it.”
Nehls said that he’s concerned the truck’s message could lead to confrontations with people offended by the sign.
The sheriff held a news conference on Wednesday, stating that he supports freedom of speech and acknowledging a 1971 Supreme Court case that overturned the conviction of a man for disturbing the peace after he wore a jacket with an expletive as part of an effort to protest the military draft and the Vietnam War.
“We have not threatened anybody with arrest. We have not written any citations,” Nehls said. “But I think now it would be a good time to have meaningful dialogue with that person and express the concerns out there regarding the language on the truck.”
“I don’t want to see anything happen to anyone,” Nehls said. “With people’s … mindset today, that’s the last thing we need: a breach of the peace.”
Experts say that Fonseca’s message is protected by the Constitution.
“It would be dangerous to our freedoms if you start going that route where a sheriff has the right to start censoring people about what might be offensive,” said Philip Hilder, a Houston criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor.
“Is [the sign on the truck] tasteful? No. Is it dignified? No. But it’s still a person’s statement that is constitutionally protected,” Hilder said.
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