Nine New York firefighters have been suspended after sharing racist messages and memes about the killing of George Floyd.
The nine firefighters were suspended without pay from the New York City Fire Department for anywhere between a few days to months, The New York Times reported.
FDNY Commissioner Daniel Niro told the Times at least one of the firefighters will leave the department once the suspension is over.
The newspaper’s report detailed information from messages and internal communications from the fire department reviewed by the Times. The outlet’s reporters also spoke to over 12 former and current Black firefighters and those with knowledge of the situation.
Black firefighters that spoke with the outlet said they submitted complaints after white coworkers were sharing racist messages and memes about Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man who was killed by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin in May of 2020.
Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for several minutes. During that time, Floyd pleaded for the officer to remove his knee telling Chavin that he couldn’t breathe. Bystander video of the event went viral on social media and sparked a summer of nationwide protests in 2020 following his death.
Chauvin was later charged and convicted of second-degree murder, among other charges, earlier this year.
The Times reported that white firefighters “gloated” about how law enforcement could “legally shoot Black children.”
Other white firefighters allegedly talked about turning the firehoses on protestors that marched through the streets of the city following Floyd’s death. The tactic is reminiscent of those used during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
According to the report, the firefighters suggested to hose protestors because “wild animals like water.”
Black firemen reportedly saw these messages and lodged complaints with he department. Afterward, their colleagues were suspended without pay.
A Black firefighter also told the Times he heard white colleagues call George Floyd a “piece of shit.” Another Black firefighter said a white civilian drinking with the firefighters in the firehouse after hours called him a racial slur.
The report also detailed a meme an active Black firefighter, who asked to remain anonymous, saw on his white colleague’s social media page. The image reportedly showed a white man’s head covered by a naked Black woman with the caption “This man can’t breathe but you won’t see that on the news.”
A spokesperson for the fire department told the Times the suspensions are severe punishments.
However, Black firefighters felt that this step from the department was not enough, and does not address the culture in firehouses around the city.
“At first, it feels like you’re part of something,” Kareem Charles, who left the department almost one year ago, told the Times. “And then it feels like sort of a lie. And you feel like they just needed you for the numbers.”
The Hill has reached out to the FDNY for comment.