The lawsuit says Richard Lipton has a right to flip people off.
A U.S. Coast Guard veteran who gives a middle finger salute to the entire city of Buena Vista whenever he passes through town has sued the city claiming his civil rights have been violated every time police issue him a citation.
Richard Lipton filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver, naming Buena Vista, and police officers Randall Hancock and Amber Lee as defendants.
“Mr. Lipton has been arrested on multiple occasions for expressing his displeasure with Buena Vista, and its officials, by flipping off the entire town as he passes through it,” according to the lawsuit filed by Denver civil rights attorneys David Lane and Andy McNulty.
Lipton, who is homeless, is seeking economic and compensatory damages for his mental pain, humiliation, anxiety, loss of liberty and individual dignity.
Buena Vista Police Chief Jimmy Tidwell referred comment to his attorney, Jeff Parker, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday morning.
“Obviously, I’m very aware of it,” Tidwell said. “There are two sides to every story.”
The act of “flipping off” by extending one’s middle finger is a well-known act of displeasure, the lawsuit said.
“It is not an act that is sexual in nature,” the lawsuit said.
On June 8, 2017, Lipton was at a stop sign in Buena Vista when he saw Hancock and held up his middle finger. Hancock then followed Lipton through town as he continued displaying his middle finger, the lawsuit said.
“Mr. Lipton was intent on flipping off the entire town,” the lawsuit said.
When Hancock pulled over Lipton, the veteran said he had a constitutional right to display his middle finger and read the police officer case law proving his First Amendment right to make the obscene gesture.
But Hancock issued Lipton a citation for disorderly conduct, the lawsuit said.
Nearly three weeks later, Lipton was riding his bike through downtown Buena Vista when Lee pulled him over for flipping off two men and yelling obscenities at them.
Lee filed an arrest warrant against Lipton for disorderly conduct, the lawsuit said.
“In fact, offensive speech is fully protected by the First Amendment,” the lawsuit said.
The charges were dismissed on Dec. 26, 2017, the lawsuit said.
Buena Vista has a long history of arresting and harassing Lipton because city leaders are indifferent to his civil rights including on Oct. 27, 2016, when an officer cited him for flipping off a passing motorist, the lawsuit said.