JoBeth Hamon, Ward 6 City of Oklahoma City councilwoman, found herself on the receiving end of social media criticism from the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 123 (FOP-123) Tuesday during the Council meeting.
The result was a round of dueling Twitter thread and Facebook comment posts from those who supported Hamon and those who supported the FOP-123.
Hamon told Free Press early Wednesday that she had received “about 75 emails” to her city email account and “five phone calls.” She said she hadn’t counted the responses on her Facebook personal accounts or page.
“To me, it signaled a sort of harassment and bullying that is not actually indicative of actually trying to work towards quote-unquote solutions,” Hamon said.
She had sent a similar comment to a TV station in response late Wednesday.
FOP-123 President John George tweeted a statement back Wednesday morning calling on her to resign if she was unwilling to take criticism.
It is the latest in the ongoing criticism by the police union to oppose Hamon’s questions about the Oklahoma City Police Department’s culture and spending. It is also in response to her open association with Black Lives Matter OKC – Oklahoma City.
The union represents the sworn officers of the Oklahoma City Police Department. In years past its leaders were usually seen the most during negotiations with the city for the next year’s contract.
But, 2020 has seen the most strident opposition to business-as-usual for police departments across the U.S. and police unions are also becoming more strident in their response.
The same dynamic has played out in Oklahoma City.
Reaction to a meme
Tuesday, the FOP-123 posted language criticizing Hamon on both Twitter and Facebook encouraging others to write to Hamon at City Hall which they did both in support and opposition to the first-term council member.
A subsequent post gave Hamon’s City Hall email address and encouraged people to write.
The union’s identical posts on Twitter and Facebook were in response to a post by Hamon earlier on Instagram where she used a meme by BLM-OKC.
The union leaders believed it was a post associating OKCPD officers with Timothy McVeigh, convicted and executed mastermind of the Bombing of the Alfred E. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
“That one really crossed the line,” George told Free Press in a phone call late Tuesday. “And, we watch a lot of our stuff. We keep up with our people on social media and I ignore half of it but she’s very anti-police. I don’t think there’s any bones about that.”
“I’m not going to get into any social media wars over everything she does, but only when it really kind of crosses the line hard. I mean, we’re going to have to say something. We’re not just going to ignore it,” George said.
We asked if he believes a council member has a right to criticize city employees.
“Oh, I have no problems if that’s what she does. But she also needs to be willing to take the criticism back, then,” George responded.
A careful inspection of the meme shows it was a nuanced statement by BLM-OKC to make the point that Timothy McVeigh was a real domestic terrorist, not the young people who broke windows and set a Sheriff’s office van on fire on the first night of the protests in Oklahoma City, Saturday, May 30.
District Attorney David Prater has charged several young people with terrorism for breaking store windows and setting the van on fire. Several OKCPD vehicles were also heavily damaged that night.
And, BLM-OKC has been openly critical of Prater, the latest being a protest called specifically to oppose what they believe to be inflated charges not only on those who are charged with terrorism but those who were charged with rioting and incitement to riot.
First time – March
Hamon told Free Press that the FOP-123 first began criticizing her in March when she simply liked a post on social media criticizing the Oklahoma City Police Department and promoting reducing their budget and using the money for other services.
She said she talked it over with their leaders at the time.
Then police union leaders believed she had voiced anti-police comments to a TV news crew the first night of the protests, Saturday, May 30.
The police union’s President Jon George and Vice-President Mark Nelson held a news conference on the steps of City hall during the City Council meeting June 2 during a City Council meeting.
It was in response to a set of demands made the day before from Black Lives Matter where they demanded the resignation of OKCPD Chief Wade Gourley.
But George and Nelson singled out Hamon for criticism for her comments to TV news crews the first night of the protests.