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.
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.'"
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.
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.'"
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.
Another instance came in August, where protesters were documented yelling "kill the police" in the hours after Michael Brown was shot dead by officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri.
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.
The group's tweets and posts indicate its contempt for police officers, often referred to as "pigs," as well as peaceful protesters.
A statement posted by a TMOC member says, "We envision a world where the police are abolished."
TMOC was also responsible for a #TurnUpTheAnger contingent within the Millions March NYC on Dec. 13.
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.
Red and black flags, visible in the video, were also part of the group's protest.
Apart from TMOC, there are a handful of other small-scale radicalized online groups such as "Generation Zero," which refers to its members as "ultras" — "an association of antagonists, young, angry and disciplined."
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.
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.
Anti-police Facebook groups and pages have been reported or removed, while Instagram has disabled search for hashtags such as #ShootThePolice.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.