Editor’s note: This story corrects Wright’s age. We regret the error.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A Columbiana County man is suing the Wellsville police chief, two officers and another employee saying his civil rights were violated when they arrested him last year for holding a “F*** the police” sign.
Steven Wright, 44, of Wellsville, was arrested on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022, on Main Street after people called police complaining that he was holding a sign that read “F*** the police” across the street from a church where children were going in and out. Some people even called the mayor to complain, according to court documents.
Officers approached Wright and tried to get him to stop, but Wright did not talk to police and recorded them on his phone before he went inside a house only to come back out and continue holding the sign.
“Mr. Wright was not interested in speaking with the police, because he had engaged in no
criminal conduct, so he did not speak to them,” the complaint stated.
Wright was arrested for disorderly conduct, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and spent six hours in holding at the Wellsville Police Department, the complaint stated.
While in jail, Wright said that he was refused use of the bathroom, causing him to soil himself, and was thrown a towel and a garbage bag to clean up without any running water, the complaint stated.
Wright claims his rights to free speech, from false arrest and to due process were violated during his arrest.
Wright claims his arrest and subsequent treatment at the Wellsville Police Department was in retaliation for his sign, the complaint said.
According to a complaint by Wellsville police, Wright was charged with disorderly conduct because he was “creating a disturbance” and he did “recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another by doing any of the following: making unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture or display or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person.”
In the court filing, Wright claims that he held the sign peacefully and that “profanity alone is not sufficient to establish criminal behavior, adding that “F*** the police” is protected speech.
Wright is suing for compensatory damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and inconvenience along with punitive damages and court costs with interest.
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 28 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Youngstown. No further court dates are listed.
A message left for the Wellsville Mayor’s Court to obtain information on the adjudication of Wright’s disorderly conduct charge was not returned at the time of this report. The Wellsville Mayor’s Court does not have online records.
Columbiana County Court records show that Wright has a pending case in county court on a menacing charge that was filed in November 2022. That case is set for trial Dec. 5, 2023.