Is a person protected by the First Amendment's free speech rights if he drives around in his car with the "N" word prominently displayed in bold letters? It may be a first, but as WAFB's Paul Gates reports, a man who lives in Amite has been ticketed by local police for doing just that.
The man tells us he was ticketed for obscenity by the police officers for trying to make a living selling a book he has written. Johnny Duncan is a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement in the south, particularly, in the Florida Parishes in the 70s. He has written about that in a self-published book of life experiences, poems, essays and historical surveys that offer credible insight into the black experience, including the birth of the "N" word, which is prominent in the title of his book. When Duncan was asked why he did that, he says, "Because it's gonna attract attention. It's gonna attract attention because of the negative connotations associated with it."
Duncan went further. He took the title page with the "N" word and plastered it on his car. He has been driving around with it for awhile. He says, "Probably about two months. It was just a method of advertising and marketing to promote my books to try to increase the sales." Duncan got attention alright. Police in Amite received a few calls from persons saying they were offended. While trying to drive home, Duncan got a ticket from Amite officers Sunday. The ticket is for displaying an obscenity on his car. There's a law against that, but is the display of the "N" word in a book or in its title or anywhere else an obscenity, or just offensive to many people?
That's where Police Chief Jerry Trabona comes in. Chief Trabona says, "We'll let the judge decide whether this will be prosecuted or not. It'll go to court. What we see, we think, needs to go to court and then, we'll let the judge decide." Duncan says, "It's a question of freedom of speech. Do I have a right to ride around and promote and advertise my product like anybody else without being harassed and stopped by the local police officers?" Duncan says he's not a user of the "N" word and it may be many things, including offensive, but he doesn't see getting a ticket and going to court for using it in the title of his book.
Johnny Duncan has a resume showing a career in higher education, teaching history and writing. He is to appear in court on the obscenity charge October 3rd.
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