Two women were penalized for public acts of protest against President Donald Trump late in 2017. Juli Briskman, a former employee at Akima LLC, a federal government contractor, was fired in October after a photo of her giving the middle finger to Trump’s motorcade went viral. In November, a Texas woman, Karen Fonseca, was arrested near Houston on an outstanding felony warrant for fraud after she had displayed a profanity-laden sticker criticizing Trump on the rear window of her pickup truck.
Juli Briskman was photographed “flipping off” President Trump’s motorcade while riding a bicycle next to it. She had been employed for six months at Akima LLC, a government contractor that works with public and commercial service providers, before being dismissed.
Karen Fonseca was arrested in Rosenberg, Texas, after she had displayed a sticker in the rear window of her pickup truck that read, “FUCK TRUMP AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” She was released on bail, and the district attorney’s office is not pressing charges against her.
Briskman posted the photo to her Facebook profile and Twitter account, and initially did not identify herself as the biker. However, she confirmed her identity to friends, and word spread online. A yoga studio where Briskman also worked asked her to remove any mention of it from her Facebook page, due to threatening emails the studio had received and negative comments on the studio’s own Facebook page. She complied. After she received the request from the yoga studio, she informed the human resources department at Akima about the incident. A day later, she was fired, reports The Huffington Post.
Akima said Briskman was dismissed for allegedly violating the firm’s social media policy, which states that “Covered Social Media Activity that contains discriminatory, obscene malicious or threatening content, is knowingly false, create [sic] a hostile work environment, or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and will be subject to discipline up to an [sic] including termination of employment,” reports The Washington Post. According to The Huffington Post, Briskman was told that her gesture toward the presidential motorcade was considered obscene.
During her six months at Akima, Briskman was in charge of the company’s Facebook page. She told The Guardian that she had found an obscene comment from a senior director at the company who was engaged in an online debate concerning the Black Lives Matter movement. He deleted the comment, and apparently was not fired.
Briskman wasn’t the only person to face consequences in 2017 for protesting Trump. Karen Fonseca was arrested by the sheriff’s department in Rosenberg, Texas, after locals called in to complain about the profane, anti-Trump sticker on her truck. She was allegedly taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for fraud, but Fonseca asserts that the timing of the arrest was directly related to her having exercised her right to free speech in a manner critical of the president and his supporters. She was soon released on bail, and then added another sticker to her rear window that read, “FUCK TROY NEHLS AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” Troy Nehls is the sheriff who had arrested her, and had threatened her with a charge of disorderly conduct. She, in turn, has threatened to take legal action against the sheriff’s department.
Briskman considering legal action against company, receives financial support
Briskman said in interviews that she had consulted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the situation, but that she had not decided whether to take action against the company. In the meantime, a GoFundMe page started to support her while she looks for new employment had received $133,805, as of January 4, 2018.
Prepared by Graham Piro ‘18
January 10, 2018