Police Department Unclear on the First Amendment:

The Daily Citizen (Searcy, Ark.) reports:

Just before noon Friday, [Brian] Barnett was standing at the northwest corner of Beebe-Capps Expressway and South Main, near a former feed store containing numerous Reeves signs, holding a sign. The sign’s four lines said, “Debate Brian! Chicken s***; 1. Kyle Reeves; 2. Monte Betts.” Barnett could be seen speaking to passersby as they rolled down their windows. Nearby workmen said they did not notice Barnett. [EV: It's clear from the article that the sign said "shit," and the "s***" is the newspaper's change.] ...

“You can probably get away with saying he’s chicken, but since he’s an alderman and a member of the city council, you can’t,” [Searcy Patrolman Tyrel] Johnson told Barnett. “That word is not acceptable.” [EV: From the article and the accompanying photo, it seems that the interaction was recorded, which would explain why the newspaper claims it has an exact quote.] ...

When Sergeant Tom McGee arrived, the three went next door to a tire shop and Barnett could be heard offering to change the sign. Within minutes, however, Barnett was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct, apparently for refusing to obey an officer.

“I asked him on four occasions to remove those letters from that sign,” McGee said. “He did remove the ‘i’ but I asked him to remove the entire word.”

Barnett said on his first attempt to change the sign he changed the ‘i’ to an “L,” and when the officers were still insistent, Barnett said he changed it to an “X.” ...

“He didn’t comply enough,” said Terri Lee, police spokesman. “The ‘i’ was crossed out with a mark that looked like an “I.” It wasn’t enough. They [the officers] could still read it and they wanted it where it wasn’t offensive to anyone.” ...

It's quite clear that even vulgarities on signs are generally constitutionally protected (unless they're personal insults said directly to the insulted party). That's what the Court held in Cohen v. California as to "Fuck" on jackets, and it would equally apply to "Shit" on signs. And that's true even when sign is about "an alderman and a member of the city council," and even when the sign is "offensive to [some]one."

Thanks to my old friend (and now Arkansas State Representative) Dan Greenberg for the pointer.

UPDATE: D'oh! I accidentally mistyped "the First Amendment" as "the Fist Amendment" in the heading — as reader Dilan Esper pointed out, "Kind of changes the meaning."