Police officer suspended after giving instructions on how to best run over protestors

A police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota has been suspended for making the following insane Facebook post:

St. Paul and Minneapolis (the twin cities) have seen a sharp rise in protest activity related to the Black Lives Matter movement (in fact, I’d previously written about it, when a Minneapolis Councilwoman “outed” those who had sent her critical correspondence as a result of her attendance at a Black Lives Matter protest).  That was the impetus for Sgt. Jeffrey Rothecker making the above post, which suggests that protesters be run over and then gives advise on how to best handle the aftermath of said murder attempt.

Wow.

Sgt. Rothecker was posting under a pseudonym, but the post was obviously traced back to him, and the results were predictable: The Sergeant was suspended.  In a statement, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said:

“I am outraged and disgusted by the post and have directed the SPPD to investigate. That investigation is currently underway.

“Chief Smith and I are committed to building strong, trusting relationships with the communities we serve.

“There is no room in the Saint Paul Police Department for employees who threaten members of the public. If the allegation is true, we will take the strongest possible action allowed under law.

As always, using social media to incite violence is always an absolutely terrible thing.  I suspect that Sgt. Rothecker believed himself to be at least somewhat protected, since he was using a pseudonym.  It has been said before, and clearly, needs to be said again: There is no such thing as anonymity or privacy online.  Things you say can always be tracked back to you, and clearly, that is exactly what happened here.

Protesting a political decision…by unfollowing?

One of the more interesting forms of political protests took place in Turkey last week, with opponents of Turkish President Abdullah Gul encouraging others to unfollow Gul after Gul made a controversial decision to increase government control over the internet.

First, the background.  Last week, Gul took to Twitter to announce that he would approve of new laws that would tighten governmental controls over the internet.  The laws were allegedly designed, in part, to help Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who is currently enmeshed in a corruption scandal.  Gul did say that he would fight to amend the internet law, but this has done little to assuage its detractors, who say that the bill amounts to increase controls over free speech.

As a result, protesters took to Turkey to encourage others to unfollow Gul.  The result?  Nearly 80,000 less Twitter followers.  This is out of +4 million, so it’s not the largest dent in the world, but it is certainly a sizable number.

Is this an effective form of protest?  In and of itself, no. But it is interesting that the uniqueness of the protest has generated more media attention than it would have otherwise.  Social Media is such a hot, new topic that it is generating significant publicity.  As a result, this story is gaining more traction, and that can only be good for Gul’s opponents.  If viewed in the context of an overall opposition effort, this move could prove to be effective.

What is most interesting to me is that there is an organized effort to fold in real-world protests with Twitter protests.  We have seen with the Arab Spring that Social Media can play a huge role in toppling dictators and overthrowing governments, but the thing here is that people are actually protesting via Twitter usage – not just communicating their message.  This is the first time I have seen unfollowing as a form of protest – and I’d be very curious to see if this continues to occur.