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Judge: Forbush lawsuit against the city of Sparks can proceed

By Bob Conrad

The Sparks Police officer suing the City of Sparks for being disciplined after posting caustic tweets about leftists, protesters and Black Lives Matter in 2020 got a court victory in late December.

Officer George Forbush sued Sparks after his tweets were determined by the city to have violated city policies. Forbush sued after being put on unpaid leave for four days and told he had to attend diversity training.

His tweets prompted community outrage in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police and the May 30, 2020, downtown Reno riot.

Forbush suggested protesters and those suspected of crimes should be executed, assaulted and punished by police.

His comments were documented in the lawsuit.

“In response to a video depicting individuals at a Black Lives Matter march breaking the window of a car and beating the driver, Plaintiff commented: ‘I have six AR-15 rifles. I always thought having an AR-15 or AK-47 pistol was pointless because of lack of shouldering but now I’m going to build a couple AR pistols just for BLM, Antifa or active shooters who cross my path and can’t maintain social distancing.'”

That was one of many tweets showing support for violence by police against citizens. Forbush was disciplined for violating city policy, including “all private, personal, off-duty social media activity and speech.”

He remains a police officer but is challenging city policies by saying he posted his opinions on his own time. The city tried to get the case dismissed in favor of arbitration, citing Sparks collective bargaining agreement with its officers.

Federal Judge Miranda Du disagreed in what is shaping up to be a free speech case.

“Because Plaintiff asserts claims’ arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, the Court finds that it does have federal question jurisdiction,” Du wrote. “Defendants’ argument that a binding arbitration agreement alters the Court’s authority to hear federal statutory claims is unpersuasive.”

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