When is free speech disturbing the peace? DeKalb County neighbors want to know


DeKalb County police seem to have convinced themselves that a man screaming offensive language to every person he sees, including children, is some kind of free speech issue. And yet there are others in Georgia who don't seem to enjoy those same protections.

Almost every day for the past seven years, people who live near Mason Mill Road say one of their neighbors has stood on the sidewalk outside his house and indiscriminately shouted at people of all ages.

"The vulgarities, and flipping off people, and yelling at people...the thing I hate about it is, I have to explain it to my grandchildren when I drive by there," explained a neighbor.

CBS46 reporter Kim Passoth confronted James Avery at his door, asking, "What about little kids on a school bus?" to which Avery replied, "They're going to learn these words anyway."

The neighbors who live closest to Avery gave up calling police because every time an officer arrived, they always concluded there was nothing they could do.

Recently, responding officers have taken to dismissing new complaints against Avery without going to the address, presuming that no crime is being committed.

I asked police if a double standard is being applied. For example, if the same behavior was occurring right across the street from the DeKalb County Chief Executive Officer's house, how long would that last?

We know actor Shia Labeouf was recently arrested in Savannah for doing something very similar. In the police report, officers said LaBeouf committed disorderly conduct when he shouted the F-word around children.

I asked a police spokesperson if there is a difference between that and what Avery is doing.

Police sent a copy of the state law and it essentially reads in part: "Anyone who uses obscene, vulgar, or profane language around a child under 14-years-old, and who is also disturbing the peace, can be arrested for disorderly conduct."

There is no special exception for people who are sober, or people who are standing on the edge of their property addressing the public.

However, someone has to be a witness to it, and police claim no one is ever willing to do that.

Many of the recipients of Avery's language are passing by in cars at rush hour and likely don't have the motivation to wait for a police officer to arrive for an official report.

But several people who live nearby expressed to CBS46 they would definitely be witnesses if given the chance.

So either all those neighbors are lying, or the police have it wrong.

CBS46 will return to DeKalb County police with these community responses and will continue to demand answers on their behalf.

Copyright 2017 Meredith Corporation (WGCL-TV) All rights reserved.


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