Massachusetts Man Arrested For Posting “Put Wings On Pigs” On Facebook

chicopee-charles-dirosa1Charles DiRosa, 27, has been criminally charged in Chicopee, Massachusetts after he posted “Put Wings on Pigs” to Facebook. It was a despicable act after the murder of two New York police officers, but in my view it was protected speech.

Before murdering the two officers, Ismaaiyl Brinsley posted a statement that “I’m putting wings on pigs today” on social media.

Chicopee said that DiRosa’s posting was taken as a threat “in the eyes of every police officer in America today.” He has been summoned to court for Threat To Commit a Crime. In my view, the charge should be tossed and a serious review taken of the decision to pursue DiRosa for the exercise of free speech.

It has been very hard to watch the protesters who have chanted “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!”:

Likewise, people Jayceon Taylor aka the popular “Rapper The Game”, posted a taunting message on Instagram and Twitter for his over one million followers showing a picture of police officers and saying “I guess y’all ‘can’t breathe’ either.” After an outcry, he later insisted that he was responding to the officers wearing “I Can Breathe” shirts and “I didn’t say it was cool that. . . ”

Well it is not cool but it is also not criminal.

DiRosa can and should be denounced for this type of rhetoric but it is rhetoric. It is speech. As I noted recently in calls for Michael Brown’s stepfather to be prosecuted, such speech is protected not because of its value but because of the cost of allowing a government to choose what speech will be allow and what speech will be criminalized. Violent speech is protected under the Constitution absent such a threat of imminent violence. I have previously written about the dangerous line of criminalizing speech. I currently have a case going before the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on this issue in United States v. Al-Timimi.

If DiRosa is being charged solely for the use of this phrase, he has a strong constitutional claim. There is nothing in the media coverage suggesting that he took any concrete action or went beyond posting this hateful message.


Source: CBS

65 thoughts on “Massachusetts Man Arrested For Posting “Put Wings On Pigs” On Facebook”

  1. Pogo, a few random thoughts re Gordon Barnes…

    An editorial in a student newspaper published in Dec. is like a tree falling in a forest w/ no one around. The readership was either busy w/ exams or going home.

    At first I wondered, how do grad students have time to put out a newspaper? Then you posted his field of study.

    The stuff he wrote seems too much like “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” for me to think it should be illegal.

    If he really got his wish, tho, I don’t think he’d like the consequences.

    What’s scary is that he’ll easily get an academic job when he wraps up his n̶e̶w̶s̶p̶a̶p̶e̶r̶ ̶c̶a̶r̶e̶e̶r̶ PhD.

  2. John: I agree that, on a personal level, one should not paint a portrait that all cops are bad. However, when engaging in protests and civil disobedience, each and every cop present and part of the system is implicated. Most protesters don’t view this through the personal lens, but rather for what it is: a movement. I recognize the difficult and tumultuous job of a police officer, but when evaluating all of the elements involved in police situations in America (poverty, militarization, neighborhood organization, race relations, mass incarceration) it seems to me to be the classic “moral relativism” to decry free speech that is born out of a great fear, anxiety and being pitted up against life vs. death situations when it involves police. Who actually has the power?

  3. “Gordon Barnes is a doctoral student studying Latin American and Caribbean history at the Graduate Center, CUNY. His research interests engage questions relating to conceptions of race, political violence, and Afro-American political formations during the nineteenth-century. His current research focuses on manifestations and threats of political violence among people of color in nineteenth-century Jamaica during the period between the Baptist War and the Morant Bay Rebellion (1830-1865), and the subsequent responses by the plantocracy and Colonial Office. Prior to working on nineteenth-century history, Gordon researched political radicalism in post-independent Jamaica.

  4. You can’t shout ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater.

    You cannot incite a riot.

    He shouted to a crowd. Was it one of the above? Or free speech?

  5. And what about this guy?
    Gordon Barnes, editor-in-chief of CUNY’s grad-student newspaper The Advocate wrote:

    The time for peace has passed, indeed it never existed in this country. It doesn’t matter if Brown robbed a convenience store, or even if he assaulted Wilson. What matters is that the case highlights the depths to which the capitalist state and its police forces will protect their own and attempt to stifle any sort of dissent.

    The violence against property, that is destruction and theft, is only an unorganized form of something with the potential to be far more revolutionary and inspiring.

    With increased organization, the Ferguson protests and riots do have the potential to transform from seemingly random attacks to ones that aim at puncturing the status quo.

    The problem with the protestors’ violence in Ferguson is that it is unorganized. If the violence was to be organized, and the protestors armed – more so than the few that sparingly are – then the brunt of social pressures would not be laid onto middling proprietors, but unto those deserving the most virulent response of an enraged populace.

    What is needed now is to take the next step from indiscriminate attacks to ones directly pointed at state power as well as at the lackeys and apologists who allow it to prosper. The transformative potential emanating from the protestors’ violence in Ferguson and elsewhere will not help recoup some “golden age” in the United States – there never was one – but can hopefully prove to be the kernel of radically altered social relations.

    The demonstration turned riot, turned revolt, is the most effective means to bring about a new, more egalitarian social paradigm. While the current “unrest” in Ferguson and around the country is unlikely lead to any revolutionary impetus, it is a start.

    This seems entirely criminal.

  6. When you look at this guy …….you could say…….that could have been Bill
    de Blasio’s son.

  7. It won’t be long and our dear Professor Turley will be cited for a hate crime when one of his cases looses. He will be declared an an enemy of the Constitution. Is this where we are headed? I do hope not and those that want to pursue prosecuting speech should remember “First They Came….” a poem by Martin Niemöller.

  8. OTOH, there’s this.

    “A 21-year-old man is facing terrorism-related charges after threatening to attack four police Montreal police.

    Jeffrey Labelle was arraigned Monday and will return to court Tuesday.

    He had been arrested on Friday after the discovery of handwritten notes specifying which precincts would be attacked.

    The threat came just two days after two police officers in New York City were murdered in their squad car by a gunman.

    …The grandmother did note that Labelle had carried a machete, but said she believed it was to protect his mother from a violent person.

    Hard to know where to draw the line when people are in fact being killed.

  9. When ISIS starts threatening another beheading victim, it happens. To many copy cat crazies doing the same thing.

  10. What is up with dressing like pirates these days? Even women with their black and white stripes. City people are so weird, totally lost. What the hell is wrong with these people?

  11. The Daily Beast had a piece yesterday on the violent protestors. Many are a group formed out of the Trayvon Martin case. They are believed to be the protestors who have gone to the place where the 2 cops were murdered. There were cops there praying and these fine Americans were screaming “murderers” “I can’t breathe” etc. There was a CNN reporter there and she was aghast.

    Protected speech IMHO. We can all just say a prayer of thanks this Whegro is not our son.

  12. It’s not unlike the Secret Service interrogating people for making similar vague threats.
    There are different rules for the elite in this country.

    Obama put a fork in the Constitution, so everyone else is just making it up as they go along, like in any tinpot dictatorship.

    I applaud Mr. Turley for fighting the good fight.
    This is a stupid charge and a waste of time. Not unreasonable to have a cop visit the guy and see if he should be in fact under surveillance, but this should not be a crime.

    That said, can’t he be charged for looking like a smug idiot poseur?
    I mean, he has a multicolored “TABOO” tattooed on his neck. Prima facie evidence for idiocy, I’d say.

  13. We forget that the internet is guided under international standards of conduct. But in reality everyone is judged or treated by the third standard. Community standards are where you live. For example a religious community uses there beliefs in there God as a bases. Where a free spirit community only lives for that day.
    The one standard that is never used is the National Standard. Given the USA as a whole under the US Constitution.
    This man is protected under both the National and International Standards.
    But lacks protection under Community Standards which also condemns Free Speech. Look at the cases and see for yourself.
    For example using Community Standards Laws instead of International Standards Law while on the the internet can be raised as a defense in many cases.
    A Judge orders you to based on his religion to punish a person of a different faith. For example Community service every Saturday at the local Baptist church to ready it for Sunday service. But if you are Hebrew or Seventh Day Adventist then this would offend your beliefs.
    Believe it or not that judge’s order was done in Alabama.
    So can he be held on Community Standards for protected speech according to both International and National Standards Conduct Laws?
    Yes but only if he presented a direct threat to someone. Words on a computer versus the actual deed. Do not forget that not to long that was the main selling subject for RAPPERS selling their songs.The artist who did that song plays a NY cop on “Law and Order.”

  14. So, if I’m in charge of the local police, I’m saying: “arrest him”. I’m thinking: if don’t and this guy kills a cop, I’ll live the rest of my life in anguish. If he gets tossed by a judge, fine. If I get scolded, fine. I’d rather spend a day in court than at a funeral.

  15. The comment seems less a threat than an exhortation, but too vague to be prosecuted.

    With respect to the charged offense, Section 2 of Mass. Gen. Law, c. 275, provides: “If complaint is made to any such court or justice that a person has threatened to commit a crime against the person or property of another, such court or justice shall examine the complainant and any witnesses who may be produced, on oath, reduce the complaint to writing and cause it to be subscribed by the complainant.”

    Does the charging instrument allege the intended victim as all police everywhere? Demurrer?

    Section 3: “If, upon such examination, it is found there is just cause to fear that such crime may be committed, such court or justice shall issue a warrant, reciting the substance of the complaint, and requiring the officer to whom it is directed forthwith to apprehend the person complained of and take him before such justice or some other justice or court having jurisdiction of the cause. Such warrant, if issued by a justice, shall be under his hand.”

    What is the “just cause to fear that the threatened crime may be committed[?]”

  16. Don’t you think the way the Internet can spread hate, and with recent copycat acts we’ve read about, that it would not be too big a streatch to liken certain posts to shouting fire in a crowded theater.

  17. It’s sort of ironic that cops paint blacks with the same brush, which is what causes the abuses….but then protesters make the same mistake by painting all the cops with the same brush too….which also causes abuses.

  18. The idea behind a threat is that you can carry it out. The defendant appears capable of carrying out the threat. The general rule of thumb is never put anything on Facebook you cannot back up.

    I say hang him first, then give him a trial.

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