Orange Park, FL – Attention is being drawn to an unknown man or men who have been holding “Kill A Cop” signs in Orange Park.
The signs are being held by the men near schools, and one witness is concerned, according to WJAX.
Janice Gibson said she saw the man with the sign at the corner of Moody Avenue and Filmore Street on Monday, Dec. 18, and she took photos of the man.
“People need to know about this. Its in my back yard. To me that’s not freedom of speech. That’s like a terrorism, Gibson said.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said this has been going on for two years and that multiple people have been spotted holding the sign.
Dale Carson, law and safety expert for WJAX, said law enforcement has limited options because speech is protected by the First Amendment.
In evaluating whether the threats against police rise to the level of criminal charges, prosecutors look for specificity that would make a threat legitimate rather than general, according to Ken Paulson, First Amendment specialist.
“For something to be a true threat, it has to be clearly targeted and imminent so that someone learning of the threat would be reasonably concerned for their safety,” Paulson said.
In 2016, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Michigan warned citizens after Detroit police officers received online threats that although freedom of speech is protected, direct threats against another individual, group, or location are not protected, according to The Washington Times.
“Once threatening speech is directed toward a specific person; a group of people, including law enforcement agencies or ethnic communities; or specific locations in a community, it can be viewed as a credible threat. Individuals who communicate threats may be subject to prosecution,” according to the joint statement issued by the FBI and the Michigan U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Do you think that these signs are protected speech? Or is this making criminal threats? We’d like to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments.