Free Speech

Bust Over Flipped Bird Challenged in Court

Robert Bele says his raised middle finger at New York City cops was a "private laugh" and an act of free speech, not a violation of the law.

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MANHATTAN — The man who is suing the city after being arrested in Greenwich Village last summer for giving cops the middle finger said the gesture was meant as "a private laugh with myself," and not an attack on the NYPD. Robert Bell, 26, a financial services recruiter, said that when he saw several police officers outside the Slaughtered Lamb Pub on Bleecker Street in August of 2011, he waited until their backs were turned to flip them the bird.

But another police officer who had been lagging behind the group witnessed Bell's gesture and arrested him on the spot.