Gibbons v. Phipps (City of Kingsport): Police Arrest YouTuber After He Posted Videos of Officers Speeding, Waving Middle Finger


Case Overview

Gibbons v. Phipps - Complaint

On October 18, 2022, a pre-dawn police raid jolted Joshua Gibbons out of his bed. Eight heavily armed officers had stormed into the house to arrest him. Why? For insulting a police officer nine days earlier in a 62-second video that, at the time, went unnoticed.

In truth, Kingsport police were furious that Gibbons repeatedly filmed them, exposed their misconduct, and insulted them on his YouTube channel. When one of his videos of a uniformed Kingsport officer displaying the middle finger led to a complaint from a member of the public, Kingsport police decided it was time to get even. With the blessing of Kingsport’s police chief and other top brass, they scoured Gibbons’s YouTube videos and zeroed in on a video of a Kingsport officer speeding, without lights and sirens, to a fast-food restaurant drive-thru. 

In that video, Gibbons approached the officer’s vehicle in the drive-thru, asking him why he was speeding. After the officer refused to even give his name, Gibbons criticized him for speeding, and over the din of traffic while walking away, called the officer a “piece of shit” and said he would file a complaint with the Department. 

Only after Kingsport police received complaints about officer misconduct documented by Gibbons did they treat Gibbons’s criticism as a crime. Kingsport’s officers made a calculated and deliberate decision to violate Gibbons’s rights, choosing to raid his home at 5 a.m. But the government can’t use bogus criminal charges and heavy-handed tactics to criminalize speech — or speakers — they don’t like.

On October 17, 2023, Gibbons sued high-ranking officials in the Department, various Kingsport officers, and the City of Kingsport, challenging the retaliatory arrest based on his constitutionally protected expression.