There is a controversial arrest in Elkview, West Virginia where Matthew Lane Furby, 26, was arrested after posting a video on Facebook allegedly calling for police officers to be killed. The police say that they were alerted to a video where Furby said “the only good cops out there are dead cops.” However, the anti-police comments raise questions over protected speech under the first amendment. He has been charged with making threats of terroristic acts.
Kanawha Sheriff’s Office says that Furby admitted that he made the video because he was angry with law enforcement officers. Okay, but that does not mean that it is not protected speech.
He also allegedly spit on police officers and is charged with assault. He was fitted a “spit mask” during his arraignment in Kanawha Magistrate Court
Some of the comments are clearly offensive and hateful. The post states: “Kill em all first, especially before they kill you while your hands are in the air saying don’t shoot I’m unarmed.” He is also shown telling viewers that “the only good cops out there are dead cops. Everyone load up and be prepared to go to war because if we don’t take a stand now they’ll kill us all. Rise up, fight for your guns and don’t take no sh–. Don’t hesitate to fire because they won’t hesitate to fire on you.” He added that police “rape women while they’re handcuffed. Kill every one you see.”
Once again, I find Furby’s comments highly disturbing and reprehensible. However, I have long been a critic of criminalizing speech. If we allow the police to arrest people for anti-police rhetoric, it is hard to see where the line will be drawn by the government. The result is a standard that is impermissibly vague and ambiguous. Such standards create a chilling effect on free speech as citizens question what speech will be deemed criminal and what speech is deemed simply controversial or offensive.
What do you think?