When an opportunity presented itself for a woman living in Virginia to show President Trump how she really felt about him, she took it. Unaware that anyone would have gotten a photo of her flipping him off, she went about her life until a text from a friend took her completely by surprise.
She was then faced with the decision to own up to what she did or pretend like it never happened. Here’s what happened when a split-second decision turned this mother’s world upside down…
Flipping Off the President
It happened around 3 pm on a Saturday when President Trump was on his way back to the White House following a golf outing. His motorcade, which included a team of journalists, drove past a female cyclist wearing a white top and a cycling helmet. The woman reacted by raising the middle finger of her left hand.
Flipping Off the President Again
The fleet of vehicles continued driving but then slowed down for a red light where the woman caught up with them. She flipped the bird a second time before turning right, at which point, the motorcade turned left.
The Story Went Viral
Soon after, the photo of the woman on the bike went viral on social media. Late-night TV host Stephen Colbert said, “No one has summed up the mood of the country better … Long may she wave.” The Washington Post called the incident, “the middle-finger salute seen around the world.”
Who Was the Cyclist?
While the cyclist’s face was not visible from the photo, with the assistance of friends on social media, the woman was soon found. Numerous questions remained. Who was this rebel? And what did she have to gain by flipping off the President?
Juli Briskman, 50, was a marketing executive at Akima, a government contracting firm in Herndon, Virginia. She lives with her two children and Labrador retriever, Sailor. The family resides in a cozy home not too far from Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Northern Virginia.
Inside her house, Briskman has a guitar, piano, and aphorisms plastered everywhere with sayings like “All you need is love” and “Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.” In one her bathrooms a print reads: “Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that made you smile.” The latter seemed like something Briskman could relate to on a personal level.
According to an interview with The Guardian, Briskman describes herself as more of a runner than a cyclist and she even celebrated her 50th birthday by running in a marathon. In total, she’s run five marathons and has had a personal best of five hours and 17 minutes. On her walls are accomplishments that she’s proud of, like obtaining medals for her running.
Then, inside Briskman’s garage are stickers on the wall explaining her political views. “Proud Democrat” and “I’m an Obama Democrat” are displayed for any visitors to see. When asked if she felt that giving the middle finger was out of character …
… Briskman said, “It’s not something I do a lot… It was just sort of like, here I am on my bike. I’ve got nothing, right? This is pretty much the only thing I had to express my opinion. He wasn’t going to hear me through bulletproof glass… So that was pretty much how I could say what I wanted to say.” She didn’t get to see the president, so she had no way of gauging his reaction, but the look on the face of one of the Secret Service members said enough.
Stares from Secret Service
Briskman recalls, “When I came past the second time, there was a guy looking out with a very round face and grey hair. I don’t know who that was but he was looking out and I looked at him and he had no reaction … I was a little bit nervous because you don’t know what the political persuasion is of the folks that are riding with him.” Little did Briskman know that there were other important people riding in the car with the president.
Picking up the Story
Various journalists from different publications also accompanied Trump in some of the vehicles. As the motorcade passed her that final time, Briskman went home and texted her family about what happened. One person joked that it was “real mature” of her.
But a report from The Guardian and photos of the incident were spreading across the internet, generating both praise and pity. That next morning, Briskman got up and a friend of hers texted saying, “I’m so proud of you,” and she sent Briskman a link to the story.
The link led to the indivisible movement, whose mission is to fuel a grassroots network of local groups to resist the Trump agenda. Someone had posted online that she knew the identity of the cyclist but that she would let her identify herself. That’s when Briskman responded, “Yes, that was me, ha ha ha.”
Briskman even put the photo of her protest on her Facebook and Twitter profiles, which at the time, were private pages. However, even though she said, “Yes that was me,” Briskman didn’t quite identify herself as the woman on the bike. “I was walking the line, so to speak,” she said. But, soon, she learned, there was no stopping what was happening.
Calling Attention to Herself
Friends started tagging Briskman and putting links on her Facebook and then another employer, a yoga studio, asked to be taken off her Facebook page. The yoga studio had reportedly received threatening emails and bogus bad reviews on their page. The overwhelming publicity prompted Briskman to come clean and she told her bosses at Akima.
In response, Briskman was immediately fired after having worked at the company for only six months. Akima stated that Briskman violated the “code of conduct policy,” even though she was off-duty at the time. “They were brutal, but they were very matter-of-fact and their minds weren’t going to be changed,” she said. The company referred Briskman to section 4.3 of their social media policy.
Akima: Section 4.3
They highlighted the whole section, but verbally, they highlighted the word obscene. They told Briskman, ”We’re government contractors. We can’t have someone flipping off the President.” Briskman believes the decision was unfair.
Fighting on Facebook
She recalls an instance earlier in the year when she found an offensive public comment about a senior director at the company in an online discussion about Black Lives Matter. The employee was ordered to delete it but still kept his job. Supporters have decided to flip off Akima, so to speak, for their decision to fire Briskman.
Lashing Out on Facebook
Supporters showed their displeasure by bombarding the company’s Facebook with middle fingers displayed by a gorilla, Homer Simpson, wind up hands, and even an umbrella. Since the incident, Briskman has spoken with lawyers and is out of a job, but sympathizers online are saying: “We’ll hire her.”
When asked by a CNN reporter if she regrets flipping the bird at the President, Briskman responded “No … He doesn’t respect the office, so I don’t respect him.” At least Briskman took responsibility for her actions and didn’t claim that this was a mistaken identity. At the end of the day, if she didn’t post the image herself on social media, no one would have known it was her.