The president of a Pennsylvania police union responded to Black Lives Matter activists demanding accountability for the police killing of a black man by calling the group a “pack of rabid animals.”
Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police President John McNesby made the statement Thursday during a rally held by and in support of police, according to NBC Philadelphia. The “Back the Blue” rally was in response to a protest the week before by members of Black Lives Matter held outside the house of Officer Ryan Pownall, who fatally shot David Jones in June.
Pownall, a 12-year veteran, shot Jones in the back as he fled from a traffic stop. Police said Jones was armed with a gun. This marks the second time Pownall has shot a black man in the back as he was fleeing. In 2010, he shot Carnell Williams-Carney who ran from cops while having an illegal gun on him.
“That was the day I took my last steps on my own,” Williams-Carney, the now 36-year-old shot by Pownall, told Philly.com from his wheelchair. “I’ve been in a chair ever since.”
“We will not let words stop us. The only words we’re using is justice for David Jones, and we will not be sidetracked by the bullying tactics of the FOP.”
At Thursday’s police rally, McNesby called BLM protesters “racist hate groups determined to instigate violence.”
“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 said inside FOP headquarters, according to NewsWorks. “These are not activists, they are racist hate groups determined to instigate violence.”
An activist with the city’s Black Lives Matter chapter, Asa Khalif, told NBC Philadelphia he and other members were only exercising their First Amendment right.
“We will not let words stop us,” Khalif told the station. “The only words we’re using is justice for David Jones, and we will not be sidetracked by the bullying tactics of the FOP.”
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office is still investigating the fatal shooting.
McNesby also came under fire last year after defending an officer that appeared to be sporting a Nazi tattoo. Last September, Officer Ian Hans Lichtermann was seen on social media with what appeared to be part of the official insignia of Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party on the left forearm: an eagle with outstretched wings, topped by the word “Fatherland.”
While Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney called the tattoo “incredibly offensive,” McNesby had other thoughts.
“I’ve seen [the tattoo photo]. It’s an Eagle. Not a big deal,” he told Philly.com by text at the time. An internal affairs investigation later cleared Lichtermann of any wrongdoing, even as the mayor stood by his stance that the tattoo is “deeply offensive.”