Already under fire over the grand jury decision not to charge an officer over the death of unarmed Eric Garner, a New York Police officer's ill-conceived tweet has exacerbated the NYPD's public relations fiasco.
As thousands of protesters descended on the streets of New York, Officer Joan Jaffe tweeted: "The #NYPD is committed to rebuilding public trust. #Wehearyou."
This message has been roundly criticised, especially the #WeHearYou hashtag — because footage of Garner's death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo's chokehold shows Garner saying "I can't breathe" 11 times.
The hashtag #ICantBreathe is trending on Twitter, as is #BlackLivesMatter and #HandsUpDontShoot.
The internet responded to the NYPD's twitter tone-deafness by reappropriating the hashtag for the anti-police violence protests.
Activist Michael Crawford tweeted at the NYPD: "You can’t hear us because you’re choking us to death!"
Radio presenter Jay Walker responded: "You can start by stop killing innocent people."
And author Steve Helling tweeted: "And that, kids, is a great example of the difference between 'hearing' and 'listening.'"
Public anger over the grand jury's decision not to charge Pantaleo is particularly fierce in the wake of the Ferguson race riots which were triggered by a police officer killing an unarmed black man.
US Attorney General Eric Holder has announced the Department of Justice will investigate "potential civil rights violations" in the Garner case.Reuse content