Man arrested for showing New York police his middle finger

People showing their middle finger to police officers 
By: John Roberts 

A New Jersey man went out one night for some fun in New York City, where he got into trouble with police.

Robert Bell had just left a bar in the West Village when four New York police officers passed by.

A moment later, Bell, who is from Edison New Jersey, "showed his distaste and distrust of police officers, raising his middle finger to them," according to a lawsuit he just introduced. In other words, Bell gave police the finger.

One of the officers noticed and confronted Bell, to ask for an explanation.

"I do not like cops," said the recruiter for financial services. It was then that the police officer handcuffed, arrested and held him in a jail cell for two hours before being released and issued a summons for disorderly conduct. Bell's criminal case was soon dismissed when the arresting officer, Peter Play, failed to appear in court.

The incident, however, is far from over. Bell, 26, filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the arresting officer, claiming that his First Amendment rights were trampled on, outside the Slaughtered Lamb Pub.

Legal experts and officials said that Bell has a strong case, and courts have generally supported his position in similar cases. What might be seen as offensive in some circles or challenging to others, they say, that it still was not illegal.

Bell won a $15,000 settlement from New York City.