The Texas sheriff whose Facebook post about an anti-Trump sign on the back window of a pickup truck sparked a debate over free speech has deleted it after discovering who the truck’s owner is and receiving “hate messages.”
The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department told the Daily Dot on Thursday afternoon Sheriff Troy E. Nehls deleted the original post.
In the post, which was put up on Wednesday, Nehls said he received “numerous calls regarding” an anti-President Donald Trump sticker, which reads, “Fuck Trump and Fuck You For Voting For Him.”
Nehls pleaded for the owner of the truck to contact him and discuss it. However, the sheriff also said the county’s prosecutor informed him that “would accept disorderly conduct charges regarding it,” before adding that he hoped they could “come to an agreement regarding a modification to it.”
The post sparked intense discussion on Facebook, with some users in favor of having the sign taken down and others believing that making the owners take the truck’s sign down would infringe on their free speech rights. The post, which has since been deleted, has been shared more than 10,000 times and has more than 11,000 reactions on Facebook.
The discussion soon turned to “hate messages” against Nehls and his family, according to Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Caitilin Espinosa.
“The Sheriff made the post on his Personal page,” Espinosa said in an email to the Daily Dot. “The objective of the post was to find the owner/driver of the truck and have a conversation with them in order to prevent a potential altercation between the truck driver and those offended by the message. Since the owner of the truck has been identified, the Sheriff took down the post. Due to the hate messages he has been receiving towards his wife and children, the Sheriff will not be commenting on the matter further.”
KHOU reports that Nehls addressed the post during a press conference on Wednesday.
“People have called and are offended by the language,” he said. “I simply want to talk to the owner and say ‘Look the last thing we need to do is have anyone have any confrontation over the language on your truck.'”
The news outlet spoke with the owners of the truck, Karen and Mike Fonseca, who said they entitled to free speech and were angry the sheriff’s department posted about it on Facebook instead of contacting them.
“No plans to take it down,” Mike Fonseca said. “Unless he can show me where it says that in the law book, it’s not coming down until the weather takes it down or I replace it with something else.”
The American Civil Liberties Union‘s Texas chapter also appeared to agree with the Fonseca’s, posting on Facebook that the Supreme Court overturned a conviction of someone who wore a “Fuck The Draft” jacket and was charged with disturbing the peace in 1971.
“Sheriff Troy E. Nehls, Constitutional Law 101: You can’t ban speech just because it has ‘f@ck’ in it,” the group wrote. “Hey truck owner, feel free to contact the ACLU of Texas.”
Update 10:36am CT, Nov. 17: Karen Fonseca, one of the truck’s owners, was arrested on an unrelated outstanding warrant, the Associated Press reports.