MOSCOW, December 16 (Sputnik) — Phillip White, a white police officer from San Jose, California, was placed on leave after he tweeted two threatening messages to the civil rights protesters rallying against recent US police killings of black people across the country, the BuzzFeed News portal has reported.
As of Tuesday, White's on-line comments and his entire account @Coach_White3431 have been deleted, but BuzzFeed on Sunday published the screen shots of the tweets the officer made on Saturday night.
"Threaten me or my family and I will use my God given and law appointed right and duty to kill you. #CopsLivesMatter," White tweeted.
The hashtag #CopsLivesMatter at the end of White's tweet came in response to the rallies over the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed the 18-year-old black Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 9. To promote their cause, the protesters used #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in their Tweeter messages.
"By the way if anyone feels they can't breathe or their lives matter I'll be at the movies tonight, off duty, carrying my gun," White said in another tweet.
By saying "if anyone feels they can't breathe", White referenced a popular slogan "I Can't Breathe", used by protesters as a gesture of solidarity with Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed African-American man that was choked to death by a white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in New York on July 19. Garner repeated "I can't breathe" a number of times while Pantaleo grappled him to the ground.
White's messages triggered acrimony in the San Jose Police Department as well as in the social media, with protesters promoting messages like the "Black Lives Matter" and "I can't Breathe". At the same time, the leaders of black community in San Jose called for White's dismissal.
"We want to first stress that we are taking the matter very seriously. Upon receiving the information, we immediately forwarded the matter up the chain of command for review," BuzzFeed quoted spokesperson for the San Jose Police Department Sgt. Heather Randol as saying on Monday afternoon.
Larry Esquivel, the city's police chief, said in a statement that "it is extremely important for the community to know the comments made on Officer White's private social media account do not reflect the thoughts or feelings of the men and women here at the San Jose Police Department."
An online petition has also been started on Change.org to urge the police department to dismiss White, who was subsequently sacked from his position of coach in Menlo College.
"Phillip White is no longer associated with Menlo College. The College will not be represented by expressions of intolerance and bigotry on the campus, on social media, or on the internet," the college said Monday in a statement published on its Facebook page.
Meanwhile, support for officer Philip White was not absent either. New Jersey's Republican Party's recent tweets ahve followed the same hashtag that White used — #CopsLivesMatter — and have referred to Ferguson protesters as "Fergtards."
"Everyone of these Fergtards should be arrested because #CopsLivesMatter," a New Jersey Republican Party tweet said on Monday.
In response to the #ICantBreathe hashtag, NJ Republican Party posted a picture of a T-shirt with words "Breathe Easy, Don't Break the Law" printed on it.
In recent months, a series of nation-wide demonstrations have been staged across the United States following killings of black citizens by police officers that have remained at large.
The most recent protests against police impunity were centered in New York City and Washington DC, though rallies were also organized in other US cities.
The organizers of the event have demanded that police across the United States abandon racial profiling, and that an independent prosecutor be appointed to deal with police misconduct.