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The Origins Of The Alleged "Dead Cops" Chant

Several media outlets and public figures say people protesting the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of officers are chanting for "dead cops." Here's where this idea came from.

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Updated on

The months-long national protests against misuse of police force — triggered by a spate of unarmed black men killed by officers who were then not indicted — largely have been peaceful die-ins, walkouts, and marches.

Students, public defenders, football players, and ordinary citizens took part in the the large-scale protests organized by civil rights leaders and action groups. The rallying cries of protesters included "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," "I Can't Breathe," and "Black Lives Matter."

On Dec. 20, two NYPD officers were killed by a man who wrote on Instagram "they take 1 of ours.... Let's take 2 of theirs." And "#RIPEricGarner and #RIPMikeBrown."

NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos

Since then — and to some extent, before then — the idea that protesters advocate for officer deaths has become a subject of debate.

On Dec. 28: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a former prosecutor who casts himself as tough on crime, said on CBS's Face the Nation that protesters are "horrible" for "yelling 'kill the police, kill the police.'"

cbsnews.com

Giuliani said that while some of the protesters were legitimate, "some of those protesters were horrible, yelling 'kill the police, kill the police, kill the police.' I don't ever remember protests where people were yelling 'kill the police' since the 1960s and '70s."

And on Dec. 21, Republican Rep. Peter King of Long Island blamed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for not denouncing “thousands of demonstrators chanting they wanted dead cops, they wanted dead cops now.”

Dec. 23: Media writer Dan Gainor referenced a "dead cops" chant, saying, "the same sentiment spread on Twitter as some were gleeful about the murders" in a recent USA Today column.

usatoday.com

Gainor told BuzzFeed News that a video where some protesters appear to chant about "dead cops" (more on that below) was ignored by traditional media before the two police officers were killed in New York and that protest organizers like Al Sharpton only disavowed the video after their deaths.

Gainor said the protesters have created a "climate of hate against law enforcement."

"They celebrated the deaths of the officers on Twitter and have even editorialized in support of violence," Gainor said. "The protesters are virulently anti-police, just like the Occupiers before them."

Dec. 16: Michael Goodwin, a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor, wrote about the "hundreds if not thousands in Manhattan caught on tape chanting, 'What do we want?' and answering: 'Dead cops.'"

nypost.com

Goodwin called the anti-cop protesters "violent and disruptive" and "hell-bent on mayhem" in a recent Post column.

He added, "the whole narrative of widespread police brutality is a big fat lie."

"It's not a question of whether a majority of protesters were guilty of any of these acts, but that those who were made up a significant enough portion that it is wrong to say the movement as a whole was peaceful," Goodwin told BuzzFeed News. "How many violent, disruptive people would it take for you to call them symbolic?"

Nov. 25: Blogger Michelle Malkin accused Obama of saying “nothing about the murderous strain of racial animus against America’s men and women in blue.”

The basis for these commentaries — and the idea that the majority of protesters advocate for dead officers — is a viral video and online radical groups who don't identify with the larger protesters.

It largely began with this video, uploaded to YouTube on Dec. 13 by user "Carswell Lightnose," where about 100 New York City protesters sound like they are chanting, "What do we want? Dead cops." It has garnered at least 400,00 views.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

The group was presumably part of the Million March NYC protest that took place on the same day in New York.

Lightnose told the Daily Beast that while he could not identify which group the protesters were affiliated with, he saw that they were carrying a banner that read, "No Cops No Prisons."

The video, at most, showed around a few hundred protesters marching down the street, and not "thousands of demonstrators," as Rep. Peter King described.

From the Aug. 10 Associated Press report:

A spokesman with the St. Louis County Police Department, which is investigating the shooting at the request of the local department, confirmed a Ferguson police officer shot the man. The spokesman didn't give the reason for the shooting. St. Louis County police said a large crowd confronted officers following the shooting, yelling such things as "kill the police."

The "dead cops" chant seems to originate with a group called the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee (TMOC), the Daily Beast reported.

Facebook: tmocnyc

On Facebook, the TMOC says, "We talk back. We take the streets. For Ferguson. For Mike, for Trayvon, for Eric, for Kimani. For all the black and brown bodies robbed of life. We're sick and tired of this shit."

In a statement to the Daily Beast, Trayvon Martin's parents said they were in no way affiliated to the group and rejected its message of violence in their son's name.

The group has 2,173 likes on its Facebook page and 406 followers on Twitter.

TMOC appears to be operating independent of other organized protest groups and civil rights demonstrations including Ferguson Action, Millions March, and Black Lives Matter, which have a legitimate and larger social media presence. Ferguson Action has over 12,000 Twitter followers while Black Lives Matter has nearly 30,000 Facebook likes.

The group's tweets and posts indicate its contempt for police officers, often referred to as "pigs," as well as peaceful protesters.

"peaceful protest" is just another form of collaboration w the pigs' violence #turnuptheanger #MillionsMarchNYC

TMOC NYC@TMOCNYCFollow

"peaceful protest" is just another form of collaboration w the pigs' violence #turnuptheanger #MillionsMarchNYC

2:12 PM - 13 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

A statement posted by a TMOC member says, "We envision a world where the police are abolished."

Facebook: tmocnyc

TMOC was also responsible for a #TurnUpTheAnger contingent within the Millions March NYC on Dec. 13.

Facebook: events

While the Millions March NYC said its aim was to demand justice for the people of color killed by misuse of police force, the Turn Up The Anger contingent wanted to " take the streets together and show our anger" against "the fucking racist pigs."

The Millions March NYC at Washington Square Park was attended by over 60,000 people. Turn Up The Anger contingent's Facebook event showed 355 planned to take part.

The "No Cops No Prisons" banner that was in the YouTube "dead cops" chant video was also seen with the Turn Up For Anger contingent.

#TurnUpTheAnger contingent is on the streets of #NYC for #EricGarner! #ICantBreathe #MillionsMarchNYC #ThisStopsToday

Ash J@AshAgonyFollow

#TurnUpTheAnger contingent is on the streets of #NYC for #EricGarner! #ICantBreathe #MillionsMarchNYC #ThisStopsToday

3:42 PM - 13 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Red and black flags, visible in the video, were also part of the group's protest.

#TurnUpTheAnger contingent chanting "Cops, Pigs! #Murderers!" #MillionsMarchNYC #NYC #ICantBreathe #ThisStopsToday

Ash J@AshAgonyFollow

#TurnUpTheAnger contingent chanting "Cops, Pigs! #Murderers!" #MillionsMarchNYC #NYC #ICantBreathe #ThisStopsToday

3:59 PM - 13 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

On Dec. 21, the ultras' Twitter account, which has 238 followers, posted a celebratory cartoon with the words "Officer Down."

Similar groups such as New York Year Zero appear to advocate violence against the police but do not seem to actively organize independent protests against them.

Apart from these groups, anti-police activists and trolls on Twitter use memes and hashtags to promote their agenda.

#idiots who deny "Kill cops" signs/memes exist. YOU are all complicit today. Just a few examples #NYPDLivesMatter

deb-az@djaznhFollow

#idiots who deny "Kill cops" signs/memes exist. YOU are all complicit today. Just a few examples #NYPDLivesMatter

8:39 PM - 20 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Hashtags such as #killcops and #ShootThePolice are employed by a faction of Twitter users who have anywhere between a few hundred to a thousand followers. They're largely not endorsed by the main protest movement.

#ShootThePolice, a movement originally intended to record police brutality, was co-opted by online radicals and trolls after the gunman who shot two NYPD officers posted threats using the hashtag.

Another threat to kill cops on Social Media. #CopsLivesMatter #NYPDLivesMatter #NYPDShooting

Searchlight@nixon1788Follow

Another threat to kill cops on Social Media. #CopsLivesMatter #NYPDLivesMatter #NYPDShooting

10:37 PM - 20 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Anti-police Facebook groups and pages have been reported or removed, while Instagram has disabled search for hashtags such as #ShootThePolice.

#Facebook changed their mind and banned one #killcops site

Sarah_Redhead@SarahRedhead_MeFollow

#Facebook changed their mind and banned one #killcops site

2:10 PM - 24 Dec 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

A headline on the front page of BuzzFeed described the chant of "dead cops" as a "myth." In fact, marchers appearing to chant those words appear on a YouTube video embedded in this post.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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