An Army veteran is fighting back after being arrested over his support of homeless veterans.
The Freedom for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) filed two lawsuits on behalf of Army veteran Jeff Gray after his arrest and citation for holding a sign that read “God Bless the Homeless Vets” outside of government buildings in Georgia.
“I have been harassed, trespassed, handcuffed and arrested countless times for peacefully exercising my First Amendment rights,” Gray said, according to The Fire. “My intention is to ensure that all Americans from the wealthiest millionaire to the poorest homeless person can exercise these rights without fear of consequence from our government.”
In January 2022, Gray held the sign outside of Alpharetta City Hall to raise awareness for homeless veterans. Police claimed he was panhandling and threatened to arrest him if he did not stop, even though Gray was not asking for money.
The police lieutenant also took reportedly Gray’s video camera, demanded his identification and banned Gray from the area in violation of his First Amendment rights.
In a separate incident in Blackshear, the city’s police chief told Gray he was required to have a permit for a parade or demonstration to hold his sign outside city hall.
“Jeff Gray doesn’t need a government-issued permission slip to speak — the First Amendment is his permission slip,” said FIRE attorney Harrison Rosenthal in its press release about the lawsuits. “Speaking out in public areas is a core First Amendment right, whether government officials recognize it or not. If our cities won’t teach officers to do their job properly, FIRE will.”
Adam Ferrell, Blackshear’s city attorney, told the Daily Caller that he was aware of the recent lawsuit.
“We are aware of the civil complaint filed by Jeffrey Gray against Chris Wright, Chief of Blackshear Police Department,” Ferrell said. “At this time, we are in the process of reviewing the court documents and allegations contained in them and will be making our response through the legal process.”
Since 2011, Gray has peacefully demonstrated on behalf of civil rights, uploading recordings of local reactions on his YouTube channel. He has encountered both positive and negative responses across the southeastern U.S.
Adam Steinbaugh, FIRE attorney and staff speaker, also told the Daily Caller that they looked forward to representing Gray.
“If the First Amendment means anything, it must mean that you can hold a sign in front of city hall without being handcuffed,” Steinbaugh said. “We look forward to vindicating Jeff’s rights and reinforcing the rights of all.”