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8 Dec, 2014 19:29

Cops mock Garner with #WeCanBreathe tweet

Cops mock Garner with #WeCanBreathe tweet

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department attracted scrutiny over the weekend for a tweet that seemed to mock Eric Garner, the black man killed by New York City police in July by means many, including protesters nationwide, have deemed excessive.

In response to criticism over arrests made during protests in Indianapolis over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a New York officer for Garner’s death, Kendale Adams, a public information officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD), tweeted Thursday evening from the IMPD’s Twitter feed “…communication with those involved was peaceful and appropriate but some opted for arrest by #choice, #WeCanBreathe.”

The hashtag #WeCanBreathe is a reference to Garner’s last words: Video of the incident shows that Garner said “I can’t breathe” 11 times as he was put into a chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo.

The New York grand jury’s decision and a similar non-indictment of former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August, have resulted in outrage and protests from coast to coast over racial profiling, police brutality and an overall mistrust of America’s legal system. The phrases “Hand up, don’t shoot” - a reference to Brown’s killing - and “We can’t breathe” - a nod to Garner’s final pleas - have become rally cries in the midst of civil unrest stemming from the respective grand jury decisions.

The Indianapolis Star captured a screenshot of the tweet before it was deleted.

The IMPD tweet was met with backlash from the local community.

Chief Hite worked for unity last night, @IMPD_News tweeter ruins it in one hashtag mocking #EricGarner. Said, "#WeCanBreathe"

— Indy Feminists (@IndyFeminists) December 5, 2014

IMPD thought it would be funny to tweet #wecanbreathe in their rebuttal to a tweet ... How stupid could Yall be ...

— Hol it dyne .. (@sydsosa) December 5, 2014

Horribly distasteful case of Indy's metro police dept mocking Eric Garner death by using the hashtag "#WeCanBreathe" http://t.co/ncHkgwYlap

— Jackie Starkey (@jackiestarkey) December 5, 2014

Totally disgusted at how @IMPD_News responded to @ajoitobeme with #WeCanBreathe. You don't mock a community for holding you accountable!

— Brent Barnett (@SoulMinister) December 5, 2014

.@IMPD_News Such disrespect. And then a dirty delete to cover your bases. This is sad. Do better. pic.twitter.com/Uaj5bVg7ld

— Candace (@kendence) December 5, 2014

IMPD apologized Friday on Twitter.

We were attempted to localize the issue of peaceful protestors in #Indy and not mock national events.We have taken it down #LocalIssue

— IMPD (@IMPD_News) December 5, 2014

We don't accept! “@indystar: IMPD apologized after critics condemned a tweet using the hashtag #WeCanBreathe. http://t.co/ARdxjPkDhI

— Joi Barnett (@ajoitobeme) December 5, 2014

Meanwhile, Adams told The Star that he was trying to make a point about arrests in Indianapolis and the respect shown for protesters’ rights, not about Garner’s specific case.

"Our intent was not what people are jumping on the bandwagon for," he told The Star. "Our issue has nothing to do with Eric Garner. As an African-American officer, why would I touch that issue?"