The ACLU of Louisiana has learned that a man in New Orleans was booked on hate crime charges this week under the new ‘Blue Lives Matter’ law. During his arrest for an unrelated property crime, Raul Delatoba allegedly shouted sexist and racist slurs at officers in the 8th District police station, leading to the addition of the hate crime charge. Delatoba’s behavior, while deeply offensive, is not illegal and in fact is protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
“Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental rights that our police officers are charged with protecting,” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “To arrest someone for what they say is contrary to the freedoms that this country stands for. Any law that infringes that freedom is a violation of our Constitutional rights.”
While racist, sexist, and other similar language may show a lack of respect for law enforcement, it is the job of the police to protect even the rights of those whose opinions they don’t share. Charging someone with a crime based on derogatory speech is simply inconsistent with the values on which this country was founded.
The final decision on charging Delatoba for his alleged hate crime lies with the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office. We hope that the DA will agree criminalizing speech represents a further violation of rights and protects no one.