An Antioch policeman who heads the local police union recently made a public comment suggesting that officers facing down antagonistic protesters are "100 percent justified" in giving them "an open-hand slap in the face."
Cpl. Steve Aiello made the comment on his Facebook page, as the Mercury News reports, and now residents are calling for his resignation.
The comment was made on a meme showing a protester flipping off a police officer to their face, with the caption, "Maybe it’s the people, not the cops, that need ‘better training.'"
Aiello allegedly responded saying, "I firmly believe an open hand slap in the face is 100 percent justified in this incident," and adding, "When a police officer is standing there doing nothing and a person is antagonizing them, why is that OK?"
The post and the comment have since been deleted, and Aiello is trying to suggest that his comments were "taken out of context" and that protesters are "creating their narrative." In an email statement to the Mercury News, he said he "would never promote violence on anyone," but he made things less apologetic by way of scare-quotes saying that he supports “'peaceful’ protests,” putting quotes around the word peaceful.
Residents are now planning to protest and call publicly for Aiello's resignation at a rally in Antioch City Park on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Protesters say that Aiello was clearly advocating for "violence against peaceful protesters," though apparently Aiello believes the middle finger is not "peaceful."
As SFGate notes, courts have "repeatedly ruled that the middle finger is protected by the First Amendment as free speech," most recently in a case where a police officer pulled a woman over a second time for speeding after he wrote her a ticket and she flipped him the bird.
David Snyder, executive director of the San Rafael-based First Amendment Coalition, tells the Merc, "It shouldn’t have to be said that police should not be striking protesters for exercising their right of free expression, even if that expression is offensive."
Wednesday's protest will also focus ire on new Antioch Officer Michael Mellone. SFist readers may recall that Mellone, formerly of the SFPD, was implicated in the police shooting death of homeless man Luis Gongora-Pat in 2016. Mellone just quit the SFPD two weeks ago prior to the conclusion of an internal affairs investigation into that shooting.
Photo: Frankie Cordoba