Juli Briskman, the cyclist who made an obscene gesture at President Donald Trump’s motorcade last year and lost her job because of it, has sued her former employer.
“I filed this lawsuit against my former employer today because I believe that Americans should not have to choose between their principle and their paycheck,” Briskman said in a statement released Wednesday.
Briskman was out on a weekend bike ride when a White House press photographer captured her raising her middle finger as the presidential motorcade drove past her in October.
It is unclear whether Trump saw her.
Photo goes viral
VOA White House correspondent Steve Herman, who was riding in the motorcade, was one of the first to post the image on social media, where it went viral. Briskman posted the image on her Facebook page.
She was fired days later by her employer, Akim, a building firm that does work for the federal government. The company said that though Briskman’s face was not seen in the photo, she had violated its policy against so-called lewd or obscene social media postings.
In her statement, Briskman said, “Working for a company that does business with the federal government should provide you with greater opportunities, but it should never limit your ability to criticize that government in your private time.”
First Amendment defense
Briskman’s lawyers said her lawsuit was based on the freedom of speech protection in the U.S. Constitution and Virginia state law.
“Ms. Briskman chose in her private time and in her capacity as a private citizen to express her disapproval of President Trump by extending her middle finger,” attorney Maria Simon said. “Although many will disagree with Ms. Briskman’s message and her means of expressing it, there can be no doubt that such speech is at the very core of the First Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution] and the Virginia Constitution.”