Pittsburgh-area cops called Black Lives Matter protesters 'thugs,' 'terrorists' in Facebook group: report

Police in and around the city of Pittsburgh operated a private Facebook group in which some members posted racist and transphobic messages about the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups, according to an investigation from The Associated Press[1].

The AP’s investigation published Monday uncovered posts in a group titled the “Pittsburgh Area Police Breakroom,” many of which were openly hostile and sometimes racist towards protesters who rallied in the city following the death of Antwon Rose, an unarmed Black teenager who was killed while running from police.

“If you are a law enforcement officer and you kneel or lie on the ground so easily over the false narrative of police brutality, you will one day be executed on your knees or your stomach without a fight by the same criminals that you are currently pandering to,” wrote a police officer named Joe Hoffman with the West Mifflin Borough, according to the AP.

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A representative for the West Mifflin Borough Police Department told The Hill that it would be “premature” to comment at this time, but added that the department was “internally” investigating Hoffman’s comments.

Other posts in the group referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as “terrorists” and “thugs,” a term experts have pointed out comes with racial connotations. Other posts from unidentified officers reportedly encouraged using guns, dogs and water cannons on Black Lives Matter protesters, similar to how civil rights protesters were treated in the 1960s.

Still other posts included transphobic language directed at Rachel LevineRachel LevineOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Pete Buttigieg represents progress, but the LGBTQ community needs more MORE[3][4][5][6][7][2], a transgender woman who previously served as Pennsylvania’s Health secretary and now awaits a full Senate vote on her confirmation as assistant secretary at Health and Human Services.

“Someone needs to shoot this thing!!” one retired officer wrote, according to the AP.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the AP that the group was taken down ahead of the publication of their investigation “for violating our policies.”

“People turn to Facebook Groups to connect with others who share their interests, but even if they decide to make a group private, they have to play by the same rules as everyone else,” the company had said in a policy update last year.

–Updated at 6:22 p.m.

jbowden@thehill.com (John Bowden)

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