9 NYC Firefighters Suspended for Racist Group Chat Mocking George Floyd
In SummaryNine firefighters from the New York City Fire Department have been suspended for a “significant” period of time after a series of racist text messages in which they mocked the death of George Floyd and compared Black people to wild animals.
Nine New York firefighters have placed themselves at the center of suspension without pay after ridiculing George Floyd’s final moments before he died in Minneapolis police custody in May 2020, per The Associated Press.
The firefighters’ suspension could last anywhere between a few days to six months. The ruling follows a series of racist text messages and memes where Floyd was the subject. In one image shared, a Sesame Street character refuses to take a pay raise when he becomes a cop because “being able to lawfully shoot Black children is payment enough,” per New York Times.
Another image depicted a fake dating profile for Floyd, in which a white man’s knee was his “match.” Participants in the group chat compared Black people to wild animals more than once, questioning whether using a firehose on demonstrators would be effective since “wild animals like water.”
Following complaints from numerous Black firemen who received the texts, the New York City Fire Department discreetly suspended the nine firefighters. A spokesman called it the “most severe punishments ever handed out in the history of the department,” which rarely fires or suspends its employees for significant periods of time.
“A man died in the street, and you’re using that image as some sort of humor?” said fire department commissioner Daniel A. Nigro.
According to Nigro, one of the firefighters will leave the department after his suspension is over.
For Black firefighters who have long been told that speaking out against racism is against the New York Fire Department’s culture, the punishments fell short of addressing what they regard as deeply rooted flaws in an agency that has condoned racism, sexism and harassment, per New York Times.
“Guys use all kinds of excuses—‘Well it’s a dangerous job,’ or ‘It’s so much stress’—and they blow that part way out of proportion to justify their racist and juvenile behavior,” said Brooklyn-based firehouse captain Paul Washington.
New York Fire Department’s is the largest in the country with more than 11,000 firefighters and officers, a number in which white people account for 75%.