Man Gets $80,000 Settlement For ‘Laughing While Black’

Robert Spencer and police during the July 2017 arrest
Robert Spencer and police during the July 2017 arrest

People are out here fighting for our right to talk cash shit, and I salute.

According to a news release from Chandra Law, Robert Spencer filed a civil rights lawsuit after he was arrested in July 2017. Officers in the recorded confrontation accused Spencer of threatening them, but all he actually did was clown them and crack up laughing in the process.


In footage recorded by Spencer’s girlfriend and acquired by, Spencer could be heard saying he would continue to “rank” the police officers as they arrested him—a term people in the majestic Midwest use to refer to “roasting” or “joaning”/”joning”/“Jonesing,” or otherwise talking brazy to another human for fun and sport.

“Beavis and Butthead… and ELVIS in this bitch,” the heroic man could be heard saying, striking a valiant blow against these detractors of freedom and justice.

But the police, of course, wanted to abuse their power and flex in their own way, deciding to arrest Spencer for “threatening” them—what I, in my own (admittedly non-existent) legal expertise, call a motherfucking reach. I bet they cried in the car.

He continued to rightfully accuse the officers of being on “fuckshit” as his girlfriend tried to explain that the only threat present was that of the police maybe getting laughed at across the internet—the “WHAT ARE THOSE?” video had to put cops across the country on edge, I imagine.

And to be totally frank, if you see a grown man walking around in his front yard in socks, do not engage. This nigga will probably drag your soul out of your body with words.

“Robert Spencer was arrested and prosecuted for laughing while black,” Spencer’s complaint stated, detailing “First Amendment and Fourth Amendment police-brutality violations.” Also from the complaint:

“All you had to do was shut the fuck up,” one officer said. “We weren’t even going to arrest you.” Armed patrolmen told Mr. Spencer that “saying stuff to us when we drive by” justifies investigation, arrest, detention, beatings, and prosecution—all of which he suffered, and all of which, they declared, he would have avoided if he had “ke[pt] his mouth shut when we came out.”

…the city of Garfield Heights (the “City”) never trained its officers on First Amendment protections, even though the right to criticize public officials has been clear “[s]ince the day the ink dried on the Bill of Rights,” signaling its official disdain for its citizens’ First Amendment rights…Even so, Mr. Spencer’s arresting officers knew their acts were wrong. So they ordered his girlfriend not to record his arrest, conveniently “lost” body-camera footage, and manufactured false reports to justify arrest and prosecution. And though they perjured themselves at trial to hide the retaliation they performed and confessed on video, Mr. Spencer’s prosecutors had to dismiss other sham charges to keep footage of their beatings and threats from a jury that still acquitted him.


Well, damn. No wonder they decided to pay the $80,000. I’m no expert, but that all looks wildly illegal to me!

Look, nobody wants to get clowned in front of their co-workers. Just look at Damon Young, who wrote an entire essay about the profound trauma he experienced after failing to lotion his extremities in the company of The Root’s staff. I hear he travels with a little tub of lotion now and hops in and out every time he’s about to leave his hotel room.


But police really just do whatever the hell they feel, often, and it’s both dangerous and exhausting. This lawsuit points at a number of other cases across the country where police abuse power and act in each other’s interests, often at the cost of just legal recourse for civilians.

Anyway, kudos to Spencer, fighting for our right to lay into these motherfuckers.

Natalie Degraffinried is a senior editor for Kotaku.



You know, I’m beginning to think that police officers are some sensitive ass snowflake motherfuckers who get all in their feelings way too often.