Sierra McCurdy, resident of Laurel, Mississippi, sparked an outrage with her Facebook post celebrating the death of two Hattiesburg police officers on Saturday.
The two law enforcement officers, 34 year-old Benjamin Deen and his colleague 25-year-old Liquori Tate were gunned during what was supposed to be a simple routine traffic stop. Their murder in the line of duty drew almost the entire community into silent prayer and contemplation of the life risks police officers are facing.
Almost the entire community is not an understatement. Miss C-Babi – the name by which Sierra McCurdy goes on social media – posted a photo on Facebook that showed her in her Subway sandwich artist uniform, celebrating the death of the two police officers. The photo featured three emojis of a gun and a celebratory message: “Got ‘em!”.
The incident seems to be a continuation of the racially fuelled clashes that are slowly creeping in the United States society. At the same time, such a post raises questions as to the limits of the First Amendment of the United States constitution and the freedom of expression at large.
As is expected, McCurdy’s post divided the community. Firstly, thousands around Hattiesburg gathered in support and memory of the two murdered police officers. Yet, posts such as the one pertaining to the Subway employee quickly spread throughout social media. A Facebook group titled “The Hattiesburg, MS officers deserved to die” coupled with comments such as “police take away innocent people lives everyday now and get away with it” drew the contempt of many. Consequently, the Facebook group was closed on Monday and the Twitter outrage regarding the hate-inciting photo finalized with the Subway employee being fired.
For the murder of officers Deen and Tate four suspects have been taken into custody. Facing charges such as capital murder and accessory after the fact, as well as justice obstruction, it is clear that they will be held accountable for the brutal murder.
What happens with accountability of those inciting to riots or hate fuelled by whichever reason, hiding behind the luxurious anonymity provided by social media? That is the real test of democracy. Is the reaction of Subway enough in this particular case? It is self understood that one former employee’s views are not representative for the entire company. Yet, the photo that celebrates the death of the two police officers is quite offensive to the families of the two and the community at large.
Commenting on the events, Mary Lou Sheffer, broadcast journalism sequence head at the University of Southern Mississippi stated that:
„But it’s harder — and this is the test of the First Amendment — when somebody puts something up that you disagree with. We still have to allow them to express their opinion. The only way that they can’t is if it’s so inflammatory in nature that it’s going to cause a riot or cause some kind of social harm, like calling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater”.
There is still no accountability in the realm of social media. And such happenings are regretabble. Thankfully, even behind the wall of anonimity or ignorance of backlash, there is still social control and largely upheld democratic values that keep such regretful events in check.
Image Source: Universal Journal Review