The fundamental right to free speech is becoming increasingly controversial in the United States, and one Columbia, South Carolina police officer is facing repercussions for exercising his First Amendment rights after controversy over a bumper sticker on his personal vehicle landed him on desk duty.
The bumper sticker was reportedly a symbol for the “Three Percenters,” a right-wing “anti-government” group. A passerby allegedly saw the sticker on the vehicle parked in the police department parking lot earlier this month, snapped a photo, and shared it with Police Chief Skip Holbrook, according to the South Carolina Black Activist Coalition as reported by The News & Observer.
A lieutenant from the police department followed up with the passerby the next day and confirmed that the vehicle in question belonged to an officer, though the department did not publicly identify him, according to the news outlet.
The officer was confronted by his superiors at which point he voluntarily removed the sticker from his car. However, following the sticker’s removal, the officer was reportedly taken off patrol duty and assigned to administrative duty while the police department conducts a review of the situation, according to Jennifer Timmons, a spokeswoman for the Columbia Police Department.
“As explained to the initial complainant, we take this matter very seriously,” Timmons told the News & Observer.
“Under no circumstances should any South Carolina officer associated/affiliated with local, county, state, or federal law enforcement be associated in any way, shape or form with any domestic terrorist, white nationalist or white supremacist group,” the South Carolina Black Activist Coalition said of the incident, according to the News & Observer.
A spokesman for the Coalition noted that the lieutenant informed them the officer under fire was not aware of the sticker’s symbolism.
The “Three Percenters have a track record of criminal activity ranging from weapons violations to terrorist plots and attacks,” the Anti-Defamation League’s website claims.
The Southern Poverty Law Center claims the group is associated with other right-wing groups like the Oath Keepers, who assume themselves part of an “anti-government” movement. The Three Percenters are thought to have one chapter in South Carolina.
While the Oath Keepers and The Three Percenters are viewed as domestic terror organizations by liberals, minorities, and other left-wing groups, organizations like Black Lives Matter don’t get the same treatment despite engaging in violent riots and the destruction of cities under the guise of “social justice.”
The Three Percenters flag has been spotted at right-wing rallies for gun control, coronavirus restrictions, and the January 6th protest on the Capitol, according to The Washington Post. Of note, the communist flag is often flown at left-wing rallies and riots where not one American flag is in sight because of an emerging liberal belief that the flag is “racist.”
There is no word on the timeline of the investigation by the Columbia Police Department Office of Professional Standards or if it’s likely the officer will face repercussions.
In March of this year, a couple was allegedly threatened by two men in a truck bearing The Three Percenters flag in Columbia. The two men exited their vehicle and threatened the man and woman according to witnesses. The men were later seen on surveillance video exchanging a handgun near the Columbia Museum of Art.
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