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Thomas Altfather Good/Wikimedia Commons

Indianapolis police department in hot water for misusing ‘We Can’t Breathe’ hashtag

Think before you tweet, officers.


Aaron Sankin


Posted on Dec 9, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 12:50 am CDT

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department appeared to make a huge public-relations blunder last week in a tweet that used the hashtag #WeCanBreathe. That hashtag is a variant of the phrase “I can’t breathe,” the last words of Eric Garner, an African American man who was fatally strangled by New York Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo.

After a New York grand jury elected not to indict Pantaleo last week,  the words “I can’t breathe” inspired both a protest chant and a Twitter hashtag campaign around which online activists have rallied.

In response to criticism from a community member about department behavior, Indianapolis police sent out out the following tweet, which was captured by the Indianapolis Star.

The use of the #WeCanBreathe hashtag unsurprisingly sparked a firestorm of criticism on Twitter.

The department deleted the tweet shortly after the online backlash and sent out a second, apologetic message.

“We don’t have a doctorate in Twitter,” Kendale Adams, the African American police officer who composed the tweet, told the Star. “We’re learning. That was a learning opportunity. We apologize.”

H/T RT | Photo by Thomas Altfather Good/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

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*First Published: Dec 9, 2014, 4:03 pm CST