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Memes And Racist Messages Get Firefighters Suspended

Some mocked George Floyd
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 3, 2021 5:45 AM CDT
9 Suspensions At FDNY Over Racist Messages
FDNY paramedic prepares to begin his shift outside EMS station 26   (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(Newser) – After several black members of the FDNY reported that some white firefighters were sharing racist memes and messages between each other, leaders say they took action. “When these memes were reported we investigated in and the suspension were the result,” FDNY spokesman Jim Long told the NY Post. After looking into complaints, the department suspended nine firefighters without pay for periods ranging from a few days to six months Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro said per the AP. One of the firefighters is expected to leave the agency after his suspension ends. In addition, three fire department officers were reprimanded. As the New York Times notes, this is not the first time the agency has faced accusations of discrimination, but this current scandal has prompted the most suspensions ever.

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Back in February 2020, Deputy Assistant Chief of Operations Michael Gala filed suit in a Brooklyn court alleging his FDNY career was derailed after he refused to disavow two letters to the editor he penned in 2007 and 2011 criticizing FDNY efforts to hire more black firefighters. Gala was denied a promotion when he refused to disavow his views, per the New York Daily News. In the messages and memes last April, white firefighters mocked Floyd's dying moments with Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin's knee on his neck, the Times reported. It said they also exchanged other racist messages, including one about the use of fire hoses on protesters.

Black firefighters told the Times they believed the suspensions fell far short of addressing what they consider deep-rooted problems in the department, where leaders have acknowledged that racism, sexism and harassment have been tolerated. Nigro said the department has embraced diversity initiatives and welcomed historically diverse classes into the academy in recent years. He said the department is working to become more inclusive, but he also admitted fault. "We’ve welcomed the folks in and now we have to make them feel welcome,” Nigro told the newspaper. “We have to make them feel as if they belong. And in some cases, we failed.”
(Read more FDNY stories.)

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