In the wake of the tragic deaths of two Black men, Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile of Falcon Heights, Minnesota, there’s no doubt that your social media timelines are lit up with posts expressing extreme outrage and profound sadness.
Within the past three days, social media has been bombarded with hashtags, personal opinions, and outright disgust with how two Black men have been murdered at the hands of the police, seemingly for no reason other than being Black men in America.
Many of us have opinions as to whether or not these fatal shootings were justified, but in the end, two families have lost fathers, sons, brothers, cousins, and uncles.
But can your emotional posts — calls for action, demands for change, and condemnations of law enforcement and elected officials — actually lead to legal trouble for you?
For one man in Washington, D.C., it did just that.
Norman Brooks, a nine-year veteran of the D.C. Fire and EMS Department, is reportedly under investigation over the following Facebook post he made regarding the killing of Sterling:
“These racist [expletive] cops who are murder [sic] our people need to start turning up the same way… they shouldn’t feel safe walking the streets and neither should their supporters. Protesting is a lost cause and it makes us all look like a bunch a [derogatory term]. These evil [expletives] don’t have any compassion. They are gonna let them PIGS go free and probably start a gofundme and make em millionaires…….
“Its time to stop praying, stop protesting, start buying guns, and start protecting ourselves from these crooked [expletive] racist cops. If you are a cop and are not in support of these people then its about time to start turning these type a [expletives] in or at least givin out some addresses so we the people can handle em.
“End of rant (Please share)”
Another post said:
“The answer is ‘yes’… Im saying the citizens should take the law in their own hands and target racist cops. Those pigs in baton Rouge deserve nothing short of a bullet in their heads. See how their families feel after that.”
The posts on Brooks’ Facebook page were later deleted.
Doug Buchanan, spokesperson for the D.C. Fire and EMS Department, issued a statement noting that the allegations against Mr. Brooks were being investigated by law enforcement while he is placed on administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation as well as internal review by the D.C. Fire and EMS Department.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
Law enforcement investigations, while scary, are just that — investigations. During this period, law enforcement detectives seek and gather evidence surrounding a particular allegation to determine if a crime has been committed. In this instance, law enforcement is investigating whether or not the firefighter made culpable threats against law enforcement due to his rants posted on Facebook and the intent behind these statements. There will be interviews, gathering of evidence, possible warrants issued to continue to search for facts surrounding the allegations of threats against law enforcement, and also potential subpoenas for further information.
During this investigation period, the D.C. Fire and EMS Department has decided to put Mr. Brooks on administrative duty and out of the field where he worked at Engine 23 in Foggy Bottom on the campus of George Washington University. The department also has internal policies in place to deal with the behavior of its employees. It appears they are going to wait until the end of the investigation before they handle the matter and Mr. Brooks’ employment status.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT YOU?
Tensions are running at an all-time high. It has become common for bystanders and victims to video tape volatile interactions between law enforcement and civilians. The publishing of these horrific videos and photographs are a double-edged sword. On one side, there is 100-percent, rock-solid evidence that a crime has been committed by those who are supposed to protect and serve. On the other side, the presentation of these images and visuals strike so many emotions in those who are genuinely affected by the actions of these rogue individuals who abuse power and cower behind a badge.
Everyone is upset. Everyone is fed up. Everyone is disgusted.
You have a right to express your anger, as long as your expressions do not cause harm or are perceived as a real threat to another party – which is hypocrisy at its best, considering the fact that many of the cops are getting off for killing Black and brown people nationwide.
Also, keep in mind that while you may not get into legal trouble, your employer has the right to terminate you if your comments are dubbed inflammatory or outside the realm of professional guidelines.
Be cognizant and cautious with what you publish on social media. Be thoughtful and calculated with how your words can help, and not be perceived as harmful. Be free enough to express your anger and rejection of social ills and violence against your community, but understand that you are being watched.
Be smart. Outsmart the oppression.
SOURCE: FOX 5 | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty