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Police drop investigation of MSU fan for holding sign at game

Authorities have identified a Michigan State fan who held up a sign that read “Burn the Couch” during the Big Ten Championship football game. Though police had pursued criminal charges against the man, they have changed their minds after further investigation.

The man, a Michigan State student and resident of East Lansing, attended the championship game in Indianapolis on Dec. 7. Following the game, which the Spartans won, the East Lansing Police Department posted a photo of a crowd scene from the game on its Facebook page.

Among the people in the picture is a man holding a sign that said, “Burn the Couch.” After the game ended, several fans back in East Lansing were arrested for allegedly setting fire to couches and other objects, as well as flipping over a car.

In a caption posted with the photo, police asked followers to identify the man holding the sign. It appears that officers were attempting to create a link between the sign and the later “civil disturbance.” However, posting the picture drew a great deal of criticism from people on Facebook, possibly for its apparent attempt to infringe on the sign-holder’s First Amendment rights.

After it was announced that police would pursue an arrest of the man after all, his criminal defense attorney said that his client apologized for bringing “negative attention” to MSU. The attorney said that the man is a good student who was trying to make a joke.

The First Amendment’s free speech rights are among the most important sections of the Bill of Rights. Though exceptions exist, the standard of proof necessary for the government to punish someone for something he or she says can be quite high. This shows how much we value the right to give our opinion in public.

Source: MLive.com, “’Burn the Couch’ sign holder won’t be charged; he ‘learned valuable lesson about his sense of humor’,” Fritz Klug, Dec. 14, 2013

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