Police have issued an apology after stopping a woman wearing a "F**k Boris" t-shirt in the street following a BLM protest in London and told her it was illegal, The Guardian reported.
The woman, Jessie-Lu Flynn, a performer and director, filed a lawsuit against the British Transport Police (BTP) last week, arguing their comments were a violation of human rights because they tried to suppress her freedom to express political opinions about the prime minister. Flynn said they had implied they could get her arrested for wearing the slogan unless she covered up.
The BTP has now written to Ms Flynn to admit the officers were wrong to tell her to hide the slogan.
"We can confirm that we have apologised to the claimant for any distress that was caused to her by the direction to cover her t-shirt, and we have admitted that this direction was unlawful", the force said in a statement.
Flynn's lawyers welcomed the apology, contending the case should serve "as a strong reminder to police officers that the freedom to express political opinion, and to criticise politicians, is fundamental to a free and democratic society".
"Invoking the criminal law to limit that freedom will be unacceptable and unlawful in all but the most extreme circumstances", lawyers Joanna Khan and Michael Oswald commented.
The incident, however, appears to have been taken with a grain of salt online, with netizens expressing disbelief about how it all played out.
"So wearing a T-shirt with the f-word on is not against the law now? And if the police arrest you they end up having to apologise?”, one asked, adding this is not his "understanding of the legal position at all".
"Why apologise? The word on her shirt is offensive!", another fumed along the same lines, and many more reacted similarly:
Perhaps she doesn't know that young children can see it and ask what does it mean. I swear but certainly not in public no matter how I feel. So like Boris maybe she doesn't care.— Soupdragon53 (@soupdragon53) July 10, 2020
"The usual nonsense the police get involved with while ignoring serious crimes", someone stated, with a second wading in:
"Maybe we wouldn't have as many problems in society if they just did the job they were given".
A third recalled an incident from the early 90s when the police were "cautioning people" for wearing Inspiral Carpets "Cool as F***" t-shirts.
"Yes, you can wear a F*** Boris t-shirt", another okayed, with some nodding their agreement.
Someone else suggested another option for a t-shirt inscription instead:
"Need T-Shirt that says 'F*** All You F****ers' or 365 individual T-Shirts now".
One user said he would get himself one given the police's apology and admission in the woman’s favour:
Police apologise to woman told to cover up anti-Boris Johnson T-shirt. You can now wear Fuck Boris T Shirts with no problems! I must get one. https://t.co/pZwCcyCWyB— PeteMilford (@Toryboy1960) July 10, 2020
The woman's encounter with the police officers at Oxford Circus was captured on camera and shows her challenging the police: "You think it's illegal for me to have this t-shirt on? Based on what law?"
Woman wearing a “Fuck Boris” T-shirt stopped by Police in central London & told to cover up, with the officer implying she would be arrested if she refused https://t.co/4LYK3TfCLY #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/0LKAkr09Rx— Ben Claimant 💚 #joinaunion (@imajsaclaimant) June 6, 2020
One officer replies that it violates Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which states it is an offence to use "threatening words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour" or display "any writing, sign, or visible representation which is threatening" while "within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm, or distress thereby".
When Flynn retorted asking "Why would that cause harassment? To who?", the officer struck back: "To other people. People will find that offensive".