Word on a shirt leads to local clash, debate on rights vs. appropriateness

News Journal

News Journal

BLANCHESTER — Police were called when they say a situation involving constitutional rights and appropriateness — and citizens — clashed.

On Saturday evening police were called to the Kroger store at 1001 E. Cherry St. on a report of a fight in the lobby.

Officers arrived and store management pointed out two individuals “who had been in an altercation, but no fight had occurred,” according to a news release from Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt.

The officers identified the men as Joshua Brackett, 23, of Piketon, Ohio and Edward Brothers Jr., 54, of rural Blanchester.

Officers noted Brackett was wearing a T-shirt with a four-letter expletive (f—-) inscribed on it, Reinbolt stated.

“The officers interviewed the parties and witnesses. Based on the evidence gathered, it appears Brackett was shopping at the store with his mother and child, when Brothers saw the word on Brackett’s shirt and suggested to him that it was not appropriate attire for a public place,” said Reinbolt. “Brackett’s mother then intervened to defend her son, insisting that he was exercising his rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution. This resulted in Brothers exercising his rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution by calling the woman an offensive name. Brackett then objected to Brothers’ language.

“At that point the situation took an unlawful turn, with Brothers challenging Brackett to step outside to fight, an invitation Brackett declined. Making matters worse, it appears Brothers then waited for Brackett and his mother at the check-out line, which is where the altercation took place.”

Reinbolt continued, “Officers cited Brothers for disorderly conduct, but not before Brackett’s father arrived at the store to defend his wife. Brothers was cited not for the words used, but for his actions in challenging Brackett to a fight and waiting for him at the store exit.

Reinbolt offered comment on the incident.

“I agree that Brackett’s T-shirt was inappropriate for a public place. I have no problem with Brothers expressing his displeasure with it,” said Reinbolt. “However, when it rose to the point of Brothers challenging Brackett to a fight over it, the situation went too far.

“We unfortunately live in a society in which coarseness and vulgarity, even in front of women and children, is the new norm. Unfortunately, for over 60 years the United States Supreme Court has held repeatedly that offensive words alone cannot be regulated unless those words are likely to cause an immediate breach of the peace, which it appears they very nearly did in this case.

“This case is a living, breathing example of the fact that courtroom theory and real word practicality don’t always mesh,” Reinbolt added.

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