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"I Cracked Heads At The NATO Summit And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt"

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 7, 2012 6:20PM

Photo Credit: abeloccupies

There's a saying: "If you can put it on a t-shirt, it's speech." That doesn't mean everyone has to read it. Case in point, the t-shirt in this photo worn by an apparently on-duty Chicago Police officer in plain clothes reads, "NATO Summit 2012: We wake up early... to beat the crowds."

It's an interesting turn of phrase, to say the least. But it isn't original; the union representing the Denver Police Department had t-shirts made during the 2008 Democratic Convention of a menacing, billy club-wielding policeman framed against the Denver skyline with the same saying. Denver police were within their First Amendment rights to make the shirts, but they made certain to point out they were satirical and that convention protesters "didn't get the joke."

Chicago police officers could make that same claim. But protesters may not find the humor to their liking because they are the joke. This isn't the first time police officers have had t-shirts made to commemorate their "restraint" during a major event. After the 1996 Democratic National Convention they had t-shirts made that read, in part, "We kicked your father's ass in 1968... Wait 'til you see what we do to you!"

There's also an intimidation to consider here. If the cop in the photo was on duty wearing this shirt, it could stand to reason he was wearing it as an intimidation tool in addition to exercising his First Amendment rights. See, they don't all have to pull out a baton.