Police Group Demands Punishment for Players Over ‘Hands Up’ Gesture

AP
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ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Police Association called on the St Louis Rams and the NFL Sunday night to ‘discipline’ five St. Louis Rams players who stood with their arms raised in an apparent show of solidarity for Ferguson protesters just before pregame introductions.

A Rams spokesman said Sunday the team was not aware the gesture had been planned before the game against Oakland.

Wide receivers Tavon Austin and Kenny Britt came out together first, with the move obscured by a smoke machine in the upper reaches of the Edward Jones Dome. Stedman Bailey, Jared Cook and Chris Givens — all of whom are black — then came out and stood together with arms raised.

After Tre Mason scored on an 8-yard run to make it 45-0 in the fourth quarter, he and Britt raised their hands together.

SLPA Executive Director Jeff Roorda, a controversial figure in the Ferguson drama, said “it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again” and called on the team and league to discipline the players. (Full statement below.)

There have been riots, looting and buildings burned in Ferguson since a grand jury declined Monday to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown in August.

Across the street from the stadium, about 75 protesters gathered in the second half as about 30 police wearing riot gear watched from a safe distance. Protesters chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot!” ”No Justice, No Football!” ”This is what Democracy looks like,” and “We’re here for Mike Brown.”

The Rams had additional security measures in place for the game, including armed personnel from the National Guard. The team has wanded fans outside entrances all season.

On another front inside the stadium, a group of fans formed letters spelling “Keep the Rams in St. Louis” in seats in the north end zone.

Additional reporting by TPM.

SLPA statement

St. Louis, Missouri (November 30, 2014) – The St. Louis Police Officers Association is profoundly disappointed with the members of the St. Louis Rams football team who chose to ignore the mountains of evidence released from the St. Louis County Grand Jury this week and engage in a display that police officers around the nation found tasteless, offensive and inflammatory.

Five members of the Rams entered the field today exhibiting the “hands-up-don’t-shoot” pose that has been adopted by protestors who accused Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson of murdering Michael Brown. The gesture has become synonymous with assertions that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrongdoing and attempting to surrender peacefully when Wilson, according to some now-discredited witnesses, gunned him down in cold blood.

SLPOA Business Manager Jeff Roorda said, “now that the evidence is in and Officer Wilson’s account has been verified by physical and ballistic evidence as well as eye-witness testimony, which led the grand jury to conclude that no probable cause existed that Wilson engaged in any wrongdoing, it is unthinkable that hometown athletes would so publicly perpetuate a narrative that has been disproven over-and-over again.”

Roorda was incensed that the Rams and the NFL would tolerate such behavior and called it remarkably hypocritical. “All week long, the Rams and the NFL were on the phone with the St. Louis Police Department asking for assurances that the players and the fans would be kept safe from the violent protesters who had rioted, looted, and burned buildings in Ferguson. Our officers have been working 12 hour shifts for over a week, they had days off including Thanksgiving cancelled so that they could defend this community from those on the streets that perpetuate this myth that Michael Brown was executed by a brother police officer and then, as the players and their fans sit safely in their dome under the watchful protection of hundreds of St. Louis’s finest, they take to the turf to call a now-exonerated officer a murderer, that is way out-of-bounds, to put it in football parlance,” Roorda said.

The SLPOA is calling for the players involved to be disciplined and for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a very public apology. Roorda said he planned to speak to the NFL and the Rams to voice his organization’s displeasure tomorrow. He also plans to reach out to other police organizations in St. Louis and around the country to enlist their input on what the appropriate response from law enforcement should be. Roorda warned, “I know that there are those that will say that these players are simply exercising their First Amendment rights. Well I’ve got news for people who think that way, cops have first amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”

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