INTERNATIONAL - A Virginia cyclist who was photographed extending her middle finger at President Trump’s motorcade as it drove past her last month has lost her job because of the gesture, she said on Monday.
Juli Briskman, 50, was riding her bicycle on Lowes Island Boulevard after 3 p.m. on Oct. 28 when she found herself sharing a lane with President Trump’s motorcade, which was leaving the Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Va. As the fleet of about a half-dozen vehicles started to roll slowly past her, she thought briefly of cutting between the cars and riding away.
Instead, Ms. Briskman made the spontaneous gesture. It was captured by news cameras and soon became a moment shared across social media.
“Honestly, my blood started boiling at that point,” she said in an interview on Monday, describing when the motorcade overtook her. “I saw somebody holding a newspaper; I assumed he was in there.”
Ms. Briskman explained that she was angry about steps taken by the Trump administration, including on health insurance and deportations. Earlier in the day she had learned from news reports at the nail salon that Mr. Trump was playing golf in the area.
“I just got angry,” Ms. Briskman said. “I lifted my arm and started flipping him off. I started thinking, You’re golfing again when there is so much going on right now.”
She kept her arm up until the rest of the fleet passed and then repeated the gesture a second time when the cars came to a stop and she caught up. She said she locked eyes with a man inside who she thought was a Secret Service agent, and then held the gaze of another man, but then the cars moved past her and drove away.
“I did not see him, but he was the target,” she said of Mr. Trump.
The moment might have faded into obscurity. But riding along with the president’s motorcade was a gaggle of journalists and photographers who captured the gesture in images that were distributed far and wide, spreading online.
Steve Herman, the White House bureau chief for Voice of America, posted an image captured by an Agence France-Presse photographer on his Twitter timeline.
It was soon embraced by Trump critics. Ms. Briskman said she became aware of the photograph the next day, when Indivisible Loudoun ACTION, an anti-Trump Facebook group, posted Mr. Herman’s tweet and asked, “Who is this?” Ms. Briskman replied in the comments section that she was the cyclist.
“Then the ball started rolling,” she said. “And it started getting a lot of traction.” She said she kept track of the tens of thousands of times that the photograph was shared from Mr. Herman’s timeline. Jimmy Fallon featured a segment showing the image, she said. And Ms. Briskman was referred to online as a “She-ro.”
By Monday morning, Oct. 30, Ms. Briskman had affixed the image on her Facebook and Twitter accounts. Neither account identified her as an employee of Akima L.L.C., which oversees government contractors and where she had been employed as a marketing analyst for a little more than six months. But she decided it would be a good idea to mention it to a human resources official at her employer.
“I went in and I said: ‘Have you heard about the bike woman?’” Ms. Briskman said. The human resources official said no. “You’re going to have to look that up,” Ms. Briskman told her. “It’s me.”
On Oct. 31, she was called into a meeting with the official and two other company executives.
“We have chosen to separate from you,” she quoted one of them as saying to her, citing the company’s social media policy ban on “obscene content.”
She said she was told that she was not meeting the company’s code of conduct and that the officials feared “it could hurt business” because of their work related to government contracts.
A company representative from Akima, in Herndon, Va., did not return multiple telephone calls seeking comment on Monday. The company says on its website that Akima conducts business in accordance with “the highest ethical standards.” According to that statement:
Akima expects that a high level of ethical standards and personal integrity will be reflected in all of its business dealings.
Similarly, Akima expects its employees, officers and directors to exercise good judgment and maintain high ethical standards in all activities which affect Akima. Every Akima employee is held to these standards.
Ms. Briskman said she was later encouraged by the human resources official to submit a resignation because it would be easier to get future work. She did, calling it a “forced resignation.” She was escorted from the building.
“I was surprised,” she said. “Because I don’t view that as obscene as other content that you see out there.”
- NEW YORK TIMES