Video posted to Facebook last Monday shows a driver in a racist road rage rant. She tells a man in another vehicle to go back to his country, calls him “ugly Chinese,” and makes an anti-Asian derogatory expression with her eyes.
In a statement accompanying the footage, James Ahn—-media reports identified him as an Air Force Vet through his Facebook–said it happened while he was driving through Fremont, California. He was going the posted speed limit of 35 mph, he said, “but she wanted me to move out of her way cause she was speeding.” According to him, he changed the lane, but she kept driving toward his vehicle, gesturing to “crush” him, and “cutting in front of me to slam on the break.”
Ahn, who is Korean-American, said he later determined it was more of a “hate crime” than road rage. His friend had started filming the woman in case there was a crash.
He contacted police about it, according to an NBC Bay Area report. Cops said they contacted the woman in the video. She reportedly said she had been harassed and threatened in person and on the Internet. According to cops, the woman took responsibility for what she said, but alleged that Ahn made a racist statement to her beforehand as she tried to pass his vehicle. (In his statement, Ahn wrote that he and his friend said nothing to the woman, only to look at her, “wondering why she was misbehaving.”)
There won’t be any charges, as police said the woman’s allegedly hateful expression doesn’t constitute a crime.
Many have become aware of a disturbing incident that occurred in Fremont. We investigated, took statements from both parties, but could not establish a crime. Sadly hate speech in and of itself is not a crime.
This incident is not reflective of our diverse & compassionate City. pic.twitter.com/hM0dQ7A4A1
— Fremont Police Department (@FremontPD) May 25, 2018
In and of itself, hate speech and other disrespectful language is protected by the First Amendment, but not if it’s considered to include “fighting words” that would incite a breach of the peace. From the holding in the 1942 U.S. Supreme Court case Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire:
2. The Court notices judicially that the appellations “damned racketeer” and “damned Fascist” are epithets likely to provoke the average person to retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of the peace.
[Screengrab via James Ahn]