A volunteer firefighter for West Stanislaus Fire Protection District was suspended on June 1, pending an investigation into a meme shared on his personal Facebook profile. As he is a volunteer, his suspension is unpaid.
The meme mocks the Black Lives Matter movement and is seen by many in the community as threatening and racist.
Pictured is an SUV, one stick figure on the ground behind the vehicle, one stick figure appearing to have been hit by the vehicle, and another stick figure running in front of the vehicle with the caption, “All lives splatter” and “Nobody cares about your protest.”
A quick internet search reveals that this graphic has been circulating since at least 2017, with multiple incidences of disciplinary action being taken in various law enforcement agencies, city councils, and fire departments.
The firefighter, a 20 year veteran of West Stanislaus FPD, has no history of disciplinary action.
Chief Gregory of West Stanislaus FPD reports that the department took immediate action after they received an email notifying them of the Facebook post. The firefighter was contacted and suspended, and the WSFPD Board of Directors and attorney are investigating the personnel matter to determine the course of action.
The firefighter, a Battalion Chief, is reported by Chief Gregory to be apologetic and regretful not only for the inappropriate nature of the post but also for the scrutiny his actions have put on the department. Gregory said that the department does not support the message of the meme and hopes that the community does not judge the 60 volunteer firefighters harshly for a single action by one in their ranks.
Disrupting traffic through protest is not a new concept.
Martin Luther King Jr led a 1965 protest onto the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. An event that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday” due to the brutality inflicted on peaceful protesters by law enforcement. The protesters who were attacked that day planned to walk across the bridge on their way to Montgomery. Instead, they were blocked by police and assaulted.
Protests have been the catalyst for progress in the country. The Suffragettes, black people of color, migrant farmworkers, and the LGBTQ communities have all participated in protests in recent American history.
Unfortunately, using vehicles to run over protesters is also not a new concept.
This month alone, Minnesota, Washington, Florida, New York, and California have all reported incidents of protestors being run over, resulting in multiple injuries and even deaths.
Notably, in 2017 James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into a group of counterprotesters at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, murdering civil rights activist Heather Heyer and injuring many others. He was sentenced to life in prison on federal hate crime charges in 2019.