Activists call for firefighter's apology

Group wants Beckmann disciplined over comment

Author: Roger Lohse, Reporter, rlohse@Local10.com
Published On: Apr 18 2012 12:33:13 PM EDT   Updated On: Apr 18 2012 06:53:46 PM EDT
MIAMI -

A group of South Florida African-American leaders spoke out Wednesday, calling for disciplinary action against a Miami-Dade firefighter because of a post he made on his personal Facebook page. 

Capt. Brian Beckmann posted a rant on his Facebook page on the day a second-degree murder charge was filed against George Zimmerman, who is accused of fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford. 

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"I and my co-workers could rewrite the book on whether our urban youths are victims of racist profiling or products of their failed, (expletive), ignorant, pathetic, welfare dependent excuses for parents," the post said. 

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has said he is investigating whether Beckmann violated any county policies, and he is expected to announce a decision about any possible action to be taken against the firefighter soon. 

About a dozen people gathered outside the government center in downtown Miami on Wednesday to voice their opinions on what should be done about the post.

"We're working for what's right", said Rev. Jerome Starling at the gathering.

The turnout was small but loud and organized by a familiar, and influential, group of local African-American reverends and activists who are not afraid to speak up for victims of racism and speak out against inequality.

"What's wrong when he can do it to the black community and it's alright. I'm insulted," Rev. Nathaniel Wilcox said. “If it was a black captain, they'd hold up these rules and say 'Mr. Captain, you've got to go.'"

At the news conference, the group called for strict discipline against Beckmann.

"Black parents are not pathetic. They are proud professionals, and we raise our children with integrity. We want the community to know that," said speaker Gregory Rollins. 

"I don't challenge your right to speak out, Mr. Beckmann, captain, but you don't deserve to earn my taxpayers' money. You don't deserve to wear that uniform. You're a disgrace to us, and I'm not ashamed to stand here and tell you that," said John Pace, of the Federation of Black Employees. 

The activists came with a list of demands, among which was a call for Beckmann to apologize publicly for the Facebook post. The group is calling Gimenez to terminate Beckmann, who's built a stellar, 15 year career working in some of the busiest, most difficult parts of the county. The group also wants for the staff at the fire department to receive training via the Florida Martin Luther King Institute for Nonviolence and for the mayor to convene a meeting within 10 days with representatives from the Federation of Black Employees and other African-American activist groups.

On the opposite side, there seems to be just as many people who support Beckmann's right to free speech. They aren’t out protesting but they are making their opinions heard online. This story got more than 100 comments on Local 10's Facebook page this week.

Karen Albertson wrote: "Everyone has a right to his/hers own opinion no matter what it is." Heather Rogerson said:  "Wasn't it on his "personal " FB page? It's like a conversation with friends- between friends."