SCREENSHOT VIA FACEBOOK
"Chairman Meg," courtesy of the large brains at the St. Louis police union.
is driving everyone in St. Louis a little crazy, but none more so than the union representing city police officers, which over the weekend attacked Alderwoman Megan Green with a slew of anti-Communist memes — including
a crude photoshop that affixed her head to the body of Mao Zedong.
Green, the alderwoman representing the 15th ward, is challenging Board President Lewis Reed in the city's Democratic primary, along with state Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis). An outspoken progressive, she has denounced the police response to protests, opposed a tax hike for police salary increases and is even suing the department for tear-gassing her at a protest.
And while the St. Louis Police Officers Association is no stranger to boldly questionable social media strategies
, this recent wave of memes and invective about Communists apparently went too far even for someone within the organization. After several days of anti-Green posts, on Sunday, the page published, and then swiftly deleted, a post that began with the words "BETTER DEAD THAN RED":
"Our posts are working," the text of the deleted post continued. It gloated that the anti-Green memes had been shared through targeted Facebook posts to users in police-friendly ZIP codes, and that the posts had made "the commies red with anger."
But the post's opening phrase and illustration, which showed a splotchy red circle cancelling out a hammer and sickle, was interpreted by some as a not-so-veiled death threat.
"This is not funny, this is not cute," Ward 8 Alderwoman Annie Rice tweeted
Sunday afternoon. "This is a death threat from the @SLPOA. Take it down, fire whoever put it up, apologize immediately and work to make amends. Denounce this, members. Now."
Instead, the post simply disappeared. But the SLPOA page kept live its other anti-Green posts, including a bewildering attempt to photoshop the alderwoman onto the body of an NFL player meant to be former star "Mean" Joe Greene.
The photo editing below is passable, but the body is clearly not "Mean" Joe Greene, who wore number 75 and is, well, black.
, Green posted her own statement in response to the SLPOA campaign, writing that it "represented everything that is getting in the way of moving our City forward." She suggested later in the statement that she had been targeted "because we are the only campaign who will begin the long road toward implementing the transformational reforms" to the city's approach to public safety.
There is some truth to that. Green's campaign is arguably the most radical on public safety reforms, including the closing of the City Workhouse, the medium security jail where last year she led a delegation of undercover reporters (including this one) to investigate the facility's crumbling conditions
. The chance of Green taking the Board Presidency apparently pushed the SLPOA over the edge.
The bombast of the union's anti-Green campaign matches the tone set by its controversial business manager, Jeff Roorda, who is no stranger to deleting batshit-crazy Facebook posts.
At the same time, though, Roorda and the SLPOA's antics have made it a toxic player in the city's political arena. Candidates who have received its endorsement — such as St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson — have been targeted by progressives and protesters who see the union as a blind apologist for police abuse. (Even Krewson, it should be noted, has called for Roorda to be fired.)
Back in January, during a debate between the three candidates for the aldermanic presidency, Green said she would neither accept or seek the union's endorsement.
Nasheed, too, said she would not seek the union's endorsement, though she added that the union had indeed reached out to her campaign to set up an interview. ("I have not called them back yet," Nasheed added at the time.)
As for Reed, his answer seemed to leave the door open for possible future support. "If the police department endorses me," he said, "I’m going to take their endorsement." (The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department does not formally endorse candidates, so it's not clear what Reed was saying there.)
The police union does not appear to have made a formal endorsement (perhaps because it would be political poison in many areas of the city). Instead, it appears to be embracing the style of Facebook trolls and meme lords to get its message across, and if the goal is attention, it's garnered some success. For example, Green's statement included screenshots of the SLPOA posts in question — one screenshot showed that it had been shared by Ward 23 Alderman Joe Vaccaro.
The SLPOA kept the Red Scare party going Sunday night, further taking a page from the worst pockets of the right-wing trolldom by mocking its critics as "snowflakes."
But no bully likes the taste of their own medicine. On Sunday night, only hours after deleting its "BETTER DEAD THAN RED" post that cast Green as a threat to St. Louis, the
irony-resistant union returned to cast itself as the victim, complaining
that its posts were receiving death threats.
"Since we announced our opposition to the candidacy of self-professed cop-hater Megan Green, her supporters have made 8 DEATH THREATS on this page against the police," the post stated. "We will keep updating this post as her supporters continue their death threats and remind us of what kind of people support Megan Green."
It also suggested in its headline, oddly, "Megan Green = Hate Speech," which kind sounds like what a bunch of snowflakes would say, but hey: At least they're giving St. Louis progressives weighing their options a very public primer on who they don't want to see win. It's like a voter's guide tailored precisely for people who consider irritating Jeff Roorda a worthy political goal. It may be the best publicity the Green campaign could hope to get.
Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com
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