Sometimes all it takes is one finger. At least, that’s what people are saying about Juli Briskman, the famous cyclist who flipped off Donald Trump’s motorcade recently as she rode past him. However, these actions often come with consequences, especially when your employer is involved.
Read on and we’ll let you be the judge of whether the consequences were justified.
Juli Briskman is a 50-year-old woman from Virginia. She lives with her 12-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter near Trump’s private golf club in Sterling, Virginia. Until recently, she worked at government contractor Akima LLC as a marketing executive.
This is how it all began: Briskman was riding her bike in Sterling on Saturday, October 28 when Trump’s motorcade pulled up beside her as he was leaving his golf club. Briskman responded in the only way she could think of: by flipping off the motorcade. The fleet drove on past her, seemingly unphased by her action, but she eventually caught up with them again when they all hit a red light, and flipped off the president once more.
As it turned out, journalists from several publications were among those in Trump’s motorcade, and soon enough the photo of Briskman saluting her middle finger was all over the internet. The photo blew up on social media. The Washington Post even called it, “the middle-finger salute seen around the world.”
Although Briskman’s face was not visible in the photo, her identity was revealed soon enough. She came clean and told her supervisors at Akima that it was her in the photo, and explained what had happened.
Briskman was promptly fired from her job at Akima for reportedly violating the “code of conduct policy.” The justification was that she had set the photo as her profile photos for both her Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“They said, ‘We’re separating from you,’” Briskman told Huffington Post. “Basically, you cannot have ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ things in your social media.”
Briskman had worked for Akima for just over six months, and tried to explain to her employer that she had been off duty when the photo was taken, and therefore, it didn’t violate company policy. She also pointed out that her social media handles didn’t mention her employer anywhere. But Akima wasn’t buying it and they told her that because the company is a government contractor, that it might hurt their business.
What’s most unfair about the situation, Briskman pointed out, is that a coworker of hers at Akima was allowed to keep his job after calling someone a “f***ing libtard a**hole” on Facebook. His cover photo even featured an image depicting the company. Nonetheless, he was simply told to delete the post, and was allowed to keep his job.
“How is that any less ‘obscene’ than me flipping off the president?” Briskman asked about her former coworker’s actions. “How is that fair?” Seeing as Virginia is an at-will employment state, Akima was allowed to fire her for virtually any reason at any time, without further explanation.
It was a gut reaction that told Briskman to flip off the president while she was riding her bike. “He was passing by and my blood just started to boil,” she said. “I’m thinking, DACA recipients are getting kicked out. He pulled ads for open enrollment in Obamacare. Only one-third of Puerto Rico has power. I’m thinking, he’s at the damn golf course again.”
Someone named Rob Mello started a GoFundMe page for Briskman with the purpose of helping her out while she searches for new jobs. The page has raised close to $100,000 in just eight days and has gathered more than 9,000 shares on Facebook!
Briskman wrote on the page: “I am not sure what the future holds, but I am buoyed by your support. For now, I can just say THANK YOU and promise to be a good steward of these funds.”
Briskman’s Twitter handle went from 24 followers last month to a whopping 17,000 currently. However, she says that she was never looking for fame or recognition. “The lesson is you can’t stage things for a marketing proposition,” she said. “You can’t plan this to happen. I wasn’t trying to get noticed.”
As you’ve probably guessed, Briskman’s views on the Trump presidency are less than favorable. “I’m embarrassed,” she said. “Some people have said you should respect the office even if you don’t respect the person. I’m like: I’m sorry, he does not respect the office.”
Briskman says she plans to look for new jobs with advocacy groups and organizations she believes in, including PETA or Planned Parenthood. She’s also currently working with the ACLU to bring a case against Akima. It’s a good thing she’s got so many people rooting for her!
So, does Briskman regret her actions? Not at all, in fact. She says she happy to be a part of an image that has resonated with so many people. “I’m angry about where our country is right now. I am appalled,” she told Huffington Post. “This was an opportunity for me to say something.”