The president of a Philadelphia police union issued a jarring response to Black Lives Matter after activists dared to demand police accountability in the fatal shooting of a Black man.
It was during a police-backed rally Thursday, Aug. 31., that Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby called the social justice movement a “racist hate group” and likened activists to “a pack of rabid animals.” The fittingly-dubbed “Back the Blue” rally was held in response to a BLM protest held outside the home of Officer Ryan Pownall last week, NBC Philadelphia reported.
“When you go to work each day, you shouldn’t have to worry that a pack of rabid animals will suddenly show up at your home and openly threaten your family,” McNesby told the crowd of a couple hundred people.
Officer Pownhall, a 12-year veteran of the force, is accused of shooting civilian David Jones in the back and buttocks as he fled a traffic stop in June, according to the news site. Police say the deadly shooting followed a struggle and that Jones was armed with a gun. Pownhall initially stopped the 30-year-old for riding an illegal dirt bike.
On Aug. 24, BLM activists gathered outside the officer’s North Philly home and protested for about an hour, demanding that he be charged with Jones’ murder.
“If we don’t get no justice, they don’t get no peace,” they shouted.
An organizer with the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter, Asa Khalif, told NBC Philadelphia he and other activists were only exercising their First Amendment rights and never advocated violence, like McNesby and other critics suggested.
“We will not let words stop us,” Khalif said. “The only words we’re using is justice for David Jones, and we will not be sidetracked by the bullying tactics of the FOP.”
Khalif added that the group wouldn’t dignify McNesby’s words with a response, calling the his comments “ridiculous.”
Last week, the FOP president waged a personal attack against Khalif, calling him a “two-bit punk” who should have been arrested for demonstrating without a permit, NBC Philadelphia reported. The HuffPost also noted that McNesby faced backlash last year for defending an officer seen sporting a Nazi tattoo.
As for Pownhall, police and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office are still investigating the deadly shooting. This is the second time the Philly officer has been accused of shooting someone in the back while they fled, according to the news site. In 2010, Pownhall was involved in a shooting that left local man Carnell Williams-Carney paralyzed.
“That was the day I took my last steps on my own,” Williams-Carney, now 36, told Phillly.com. “I’ve been in a [wheel]chair ever since.”
Pownhall is still on administrative leave.