America is reeling this morning from the worst mass shooting in the nation's history. At least 400 people were wounded and 50 killed in Las Vegas when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire with at least ten rifles from the 32nd floor of a hotel onto a concert crowd below.
Paddock's motives are still a mystery — but that didn't stop Miami's police union chief from hopping online as the tragedy was unfolding to somehow try to tie the horrific mass killing to the ongoing, peaceful National Anthem protests by NFL players.
Lt. Javier Ortiz, the head of Miami's Fraternal Order of Police, took to Twitter at 6:30 a.m. to bang out a post linking images of Vegas cops responding to the shooting to NFL players taking a knee during the anthem at a recent game:
New Times asked Ortiz to be more specific about how he saw a connection between a maniac gunning down hundreds of concertgoers in Las Vegas and NFL players taking a peaceful stand against racial injustice.
"While NFL players express a false perception of police officers by inciting hate and division by disrespecting the U.S. flag, the reality is law enforcement risks their lives every day for America," Ortiz said in a text message.
It seems clear Ortiz hasn't bothered to read up on what the football protests are actually about. And lest Fox News or Breitbart convinced him the players are "disrespecting" the flag and anthem out of some vague hatred for cops, the players have explicitly stated what their protest stands for in a letter sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last month.
In fact, the protests are "to raise awareness to racial inequality and issues surrounding criminal justice reform," the players write, specifically issues including "police transparency/accountability, bail reform, criminalization of poverty, [and] mass incarceration."
Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who started the protests before the league blackballed him, was abundantly clear that his protests were not against the anthem, the flag, or even police in general. Rather, they're about the repeated lack of justice in cases like those of Tamir Rice (the unarmed 12-year-old fatally shot by police who, incidentally, Ortiz called a "thug"), Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and others.
It wasn't the only pet subject he quickly latched on to: Just before the NFL tweet, Ortiz suggested the Vegas shooting showed why police need military weapons:
But leave Ortiz's willful ignorance about the nature of the protests aside for a moment. What kind of person immediately links an event as awful as Vegas to a peaceful protest they don't like? Does Ortiz really think that was an appropriate argument to tweet out as the tragedy was unfolding?
Considering he has used his platform in the past to smear Rice and other victims of police brutality, to feud with Beyoncé, and to spread an internet harassment campaign against a random citizen who upset him, it's probably no surprise that Ortiz didn't answer a follow-up text from New Times asking just that question. The answer is already perfectly clear anyway.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.