MIAMI (CBSMiami) – South Florida civil rights leaders held a protest Wednesday in connection with controversial comments made by a Miami-Dade Fire Department Captain in the Trayvon Martin case.
About two dozen demonstrators from the Federation of Black Employees gathered outside the Stephen P. Clark building in downtown Miami. They want Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the Miami-Dade Fire Chief to formally discipline Captain Brian Beckmann for the online rant he posted on his personal Facebook page.
“What is wrong with you Mr. Beckmann? We shouldn’t have to fire you. You should just leave,” said John Pace from the Federation of Black Employees.
Beckmann’s personal Facebook posting read, “I and my coworkers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, *expletive*, ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents.”
“We would like the community to know that black parents are not that. Black parents are superstars, black parents are special. They are not *expletive*. Black parents are not idiots, they are intelligent and they are inspirational to their families,” said Gregory Roberts, a member of the Federation.
Beckmann also wrote in his post, “They’re just misunderstood little church going angels and the ghetto hoodie look doesn’t have anything to do with why people wonder if they’re about to get jacked by a thug.”
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue has launched an investigation into whether any county policies were violated by the posting, which critics say is racist. In the county’s 11-page social media policy, there is just one paragraph regarding personal opinions that reads “do it on your own time, make clear that you are speaking from your own point of view.”
Beckmann has defended the post. He told CBS4 News partner the Miami Herald that he was a ‘private citizen and has the same right to freely express an opinion on any subject that anyone else does’.
Retired firefighter William Clark said he was not surprised when he heard about Beckmann’s post.
“The fire department is rife, is littered with Brian Beckmanns. Trust me. As an African-American firefighter who served 28 years for this fire department and this community. I had to fight Brian Beckman’s all throughout my career,” said Clark.
Clark and many others are asking for the county to make an example of Beckman. By example they mean fire him. “Absolutely. As I look at the rules it warrants it.” Reverend Richard Dunn said.
With papers in hand Dunn led the activists up to the 29th floor at County Hall and demanded to meet with the Mayor. Mayor Carlos Gimenez, however, was out at an event in Hialeah. They pledged to keep the pressure on Gimenez until he decides what should be done.
“His actions or no actions will indicate how he feels about Mr. Brian Beckman’s statements. About Mr. Brian Beckman’s racism.” said Dunn.
Critics want the Mayor to formally discipline Capt. Beckmann, especially since Gimenez called on the Miami Marlins organization to discipline manager Ozzie Guillen for his controversial comments concerning Fidel Castro.
Gimenez said Tuesday Beckmann’s comments “discredit the county as a whole.” He also acknowledged that all options, even firing, are on the table.
As for Beckmann’s first amendment rights, the legal community says he is entitled to hem but that doesn’t mean there are not consequences from the government which is his employer.
“The first amendment doesn’t require that the government employer sit idly by while its employees sort of insult the people it was hired to protect and serve,” said UM law professor Caroline Mala.
Protesters hope the County takes action.
“When does it stop Mr. Beckman? You are not worthy or serving any community,” said Pace.
Beckmann made the Facebook post on the same day State Attorney Angela Corey announced that Sanford neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman was being charged with second-degree murder in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Martin, a Miami Gardens teen, was unarmed. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense.