VALDOSTA, Ga. - A protester in south Georgia has been arrested because a sheriff said she was displaying an obscene sign.
Sydney Caitlin Smith, 31, was arrested Thursday by Lowndes County sheriff’s deputies, local news outlets reported. Smith was attending a protest sparked by the death of George Floyd.
Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk said Smith is charged with violating a state law that forbids displaying obscenity where children 14 or younger can see it. Smith is free on bail.
Wednesday, video captured Paulk confronting a man with a sign displaying profanity, confiscating the sign and grabbing a female protester who tries to snatch it back. No one was arrested.
“I got several calls of ‘We don’t want to look at this,’” Paulk told WCTV-TV. “I went back up there. I approached the young man who had the sign in his hand.”
Witnesses tell WALB-TV that Smith’s sign criticized Paulk and President Donald Trump. Others who saw the arrest said they felt it was unjust.
“I believe the First Amendment says, ‘Freedom of speech,’ so she should be able to express that however she would like to,” protester Kenyon Brown said.
University of Georgia law professor Clare Norins, questioned Smith’s arrest, saying a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case involving a California man found that profanity can’t be banned when it’s part of a political message.
“The Supreme Court said that his conviction had to be reversed because he had the right to express his protest message using profanity,” she told WCTV-TV.
Paulk said he intends to continue enforcing the anti-profanity law.