A private Facebook group for Pennsylvania police officers and elected officials has been revealed to be a hotbed of transphobic and racist content.
One post advocated for the murder of former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine, a transgender woman who oversaw that state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Levine has been nominated to serve as Assistant Secretary of Health in the Biden administration but hasn’t been confirmed by the full senate yet.
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Dozens of posts demeaned Levine, calling her names like “it” or “freak” with one now-retired officer posting, “Someone needs to shoot this thing!!”
Other posts defended police brutality, mocked racial justice protestors, and used plainly racist language. Several of the officers who have posted the content have been the subject of complaints or previous investigations of unnecessary violence or racial profiling.
In one example, a post from a retired officer complaining about being stuck in traffic during a racial justice protest drew responses from officers advocating “lethal force” as “protection” after he mentioned having his gun in the car. Others said the protestors should be cleared with dogs and water cannons the way civil rights protestors were met in the 1960s.
Last year, Roxanne Moore, a Black transgender woman with mental health issues, was shot 16 times by police in Reading, PA. She survived but local authorities deemed a justified use of force since she had hit someone before they fired.
“Let me tell you,” local activist Jane Palmer said to local news, explaining why residents were protesting despite the woman’s attack on a stranger. “It’s because we see in their treatment centuries of racism and homophobia, and we have had enough. Do Black people ever get the benefit of the doubt in a situation involving the police? Add trans or gender-nonconforming on top of that, and you’re in real trouble.”
“We’re here today for Roxanne, who is, at this very moment, still in the hospital in critical condition because of who she is: a Black trans woman,” Palmer added. “Any one of those things, being Black, being trans, being a woman, would make her vulnerable, but she lives at the intersection of all three.”